Sunday 20th November

And then as sure as night follows day along came Harriet…

She wasn’t thinking about getting pregnant at all.  She and Phil had talked about children of course, and she’d had to agree with him that it was better to wait a bit until they were settled financially.  They were careful too and used ‘Johnnies’ all the time, but once or twice they forgot, in their impatience, and then suddenly half way through she would bang him on the shoulder and say “Phil, we aren’t using anything, hadn’t we better stop.”  But, of course, he didn’t; a charging bull would have been easier to stop.

But worse than this by far was her utter stupidity in starting to see Ted again.  It had started at her sister Julie’s wedding which was about a year after her own.  Ted was right when he said he was going to marry Julie but June was never sure if it was because he loved her sister, or just wanted to get back close to her.  There was always that air of unfinished business between them, and her stomach still churned whenever she saw him; she wondered if his did too. They had a bigger wedding than Phil and her, but then they were only moving into a council house whereas Phil already had his eye on house number two.  The reception was in Stowupland Village Hall, and very pretty it looked, all decked out with long tables and white cloths and flowers and the cake in pride of place.  June tried to convince herself that she was really happy for Julie, if somewhat jealous too.  And not only of her grand wedding: Ted was great in bed, or had been with her, she couldn’t deny him that.  She kept wondering if he was that good with her sister, and even though she’d drunk a bit too much she couldn’t quite get those thoughts out of her head.

After the meal there was dancing to a small band from Colchester, it must have cost quite a bit, they were good and they really swung.  Everyone was up and dancing, even Phil, the worst dancer in the world joined his wife for a waltz, but mostly he was at the bar, chatting to the older men; building up his little network.  Phil was one of those men who just end up knowing everyone and all their business too, he wasn’t nosey, but had a way of relaxing people and getting them to talk to him – very handy as a solicitor in a small town. Later, June was dancing a foxtrot with Ted, and as they spun across the floor he leaned in close and said in that quiet but deep voice of his.

“We never danced, you and me, did we June?” And then almost in a whisper he added “We did everything else though, didn’t we?”

“And now you’re doing all that with my sister, does that excite you then?” she whispered back into his ear, only inches from her face.

“Not as much as the thought that it used to be you I was doing it with.”

“Now that’s naughty, you know that, don’t you.” And she tapped him lightly on the shoulder.

“Naughty or not I’d do it again in the blink of an eye, I would.” He whispered into her ear.

“And who says you’ll ever get the chance, Ted Wasp.” she whispered back at him, her whole body tingling with excitement.  It was her sister’s wedding and here she was exchanging sexy chit-chat with her husband who used to be her own lover and not a soul apart from the two of them had any idea.

“You don’t have to say anything; I can see it in the way you looks’ at me that you want me as much as I want you.”  And he tried to pull her closer to him.

“Well, why the hell did you marry my sister if you still wanted me?” she pulled back and turned on him.  She was really annoyed with his teasing by now.  He didn’t have to let her know he still wanted her, he could have just said nothing.  “Just what the hell do you think you are doing?”

“Oh, I likes your sister alright, and a man has to get married you know, besides this way I’ll always be near to you.  You know that don’t you.  I’ll always be here for you, married woman that you are or not, and to your smart Solicitor too.”

Suddenly June realised that neither of them had noticed the band had stopped and they were the last couple on the dance-floor.  “I have to go now Ted, the dance is over.”


And they left it there, but he had planted this little seed in her mind, well, to tell the truth it had never gone away.  You never really get over your first love do you?  Nothing is ever that intense again, nothing means that much to you as that first love did.  And so, stupidly, she kept bumping into Ted, well she could hardly help it, he was married to her sister, but she deliberately kept finding herself alone with him. They came round to Phil and June’s one time just as they were moving into the big house, and there were lots of empty rooms that they didn’t even have furniture for. June found some excuse for following Ted upstairs while Julie and Phil were looking over the garden and of course before they knew it they were kissing and he had his hand up her skirt.  June was so excited and he had been so quick, sweeping her into his arms and she did nothing to stop that quick and rough hand which seemed to know exactly where she wanted him to put it.  ‘Home again’, she thought momentarily, and at that moment she was sure they would end up as lovers again. She told herself that if she just did it once again with Ted it would get him out of her system, she couldn’t keep on teasing herself like this, it was getting ridiculous, she was thinking about him all the time, even when she was with Phil.

S – is for Seasick Steve

Saturday 19th November

Authenticity is a rare commodity, but it would seem that Seasick Steve is a completely authentic person.  He was apparently discovered in his native America playing in some run-down bar joint and brought over, almost a novelty act, to Glastonbury about ten year ago.  Well, he went down a storm with his very basic rock and country blues and was snapped up and has made a few records since.  And even now I am not sure he is not a record company construct, but he sounds completely genuine.

He was a hobo, a wandering itinerant for many years, poorly educated, often imprisoned for vagrancy and quite a character.  His records are quickly recorded, mostly just with him on guitar, often a basic electric model, nothin’ fancy,  just basic 4 bar blues and country rock, very tex-mex.  He intersperses these basic and sometimes very funny songs about life on the road, or critters, or dogs or being poor – with tales of sleeping behind food stores and eating the food which Supermarkets throw out as out of date.  He tends to ramble, which somehow suits the records anyway.  His first record was called ‘I started out with nothin’ and I still got most of it left’.  I don’t buy everything he puts out, a new record each year, but I have a handful – which actually is enough, they aren’t that different from each other, but they do sound authentic at least.

I am not recommending him at all, but you can look him up on Youtube if you are mildly curious….






Real Music

Friday 18th November

I have been incredibly lucky.  Just think; to happen to have been 12 when I first heard The Beatles.  At 12 you are just on the cusp of understanding the world, of coming to terms with it, of claiming some of it for yourself.  And The Beatles were mine, they were singing directly to me – it was real music.  I had of course heard Rock’n’Roll when I was a few years younger – but this was my parents music, and seemed to be played by old men like Bill Haley.  And it was pre-TV, so we never saw Elvis or Little Richard or Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly.  Later I went back and have appreciated their music, but back then in 1963 it was already old-fashioned.  Add to that the fact that for a few years the ‘Charts’ which we listened to every Sunday afternoon on the Light Programme were dominated by soppy songs and Doris Day and ‘I Remember You’ by Frank Ifield  – music meant nothing to me.

Then I heard ‘Please Please Me’ and the world opened up.  And ‘Wow’ the Sixties was like a cornucopia of new sounds and styles; Surf Music, Soul Music, Blues, Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds, Kinks, Spencer Davis, The Who, Small Faces, Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Doors, Simon and Garfunkel, Beach Boys, Byrds.  Every week new records, new bands, new sounds, it was so exciting.   And we were living for music; it was the centre-piece of our culture, our fashions driven by pop-stars…

The Seventies brought us Classic Rock, Prog Rock, Singer-Songwriters, Glam, Punk, New Romantics….and on and on.

But at some point the music died.  Real Music, anyway.  It all started sounding the same, no new directions.  Dance music to my ears sounded very samey.  I never got into Rap or Hip Hop or Garage or whatever they call it now.

And now we have X-factor and totally manufactured music.  The few real artists still plod on, but I doubt there will ever again be that explosion of talent and exciting new music.  I still buy new stuff, or rather new stuff by old Artists – and mostly it is okay, rarely exciting – but okay.  I’ll settle for that…

As I said I have been Incredibly lucky, and I still have to listen to real music every day, and will do until I die.

I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Elected

Thursday 17th November

It may have started when cigar-smoking Harold Wilson affected a pipe, but it may have been before that.  The spectacular rise of the LibDems in the late Nineties may be partly due to the Celebrity Status of Charlie Kennedy who joyfully appeared on Have I Got News For You.  Followed shortly by Boris, who used his Celebrity to win the London Mayor election.  And now, after Farage and Trump, it is full-on Celebrity Politics.

And how strange life is; Ed Balls was never a popular Politician, even within the Labour Party.  But now that he is on ‘Strictly’, and prepared to make a fool of himself, he is suddenly everyone’s favourite – to the extent that he may actually win the damn thing despite having three left feet (well they wouldn’t be right, would they) and several really accomplished dancers will get voted out.

So, from now on we will have full-on Celebrity Elections.  Mrs. May in the Jungle with cockroaches in her hair (and not fellow Cabinet members either) and Jeremy Corbyn being parachuted while singing along to “Simply Red – Money’s too tight to mention” live on X factor.  No policies; they are soooo soooo boring and no-one actually carries them out anyway, just jokes and singing and dancing – and let everyone vote by phone.  It doesn’t matter how many times you vote, the money will help reduce the deficit….hahaha.

No Plan For BREXIT

Wednesday 16th November

We have had a leaked report by a firm of Consultants, which of course the Government denies, that there is no coherent plan for Brexit.  Why are we surprised?  Cameron had no plan, and had apparently forbidden Civil Servants from even starting to draw up contingency plans in case he lost.  And Theresa May, although probably a Leaver all along, was only interested in becoming P.M.  She made a fatal mistake in appointing Liam Fox (and presumably his travelling companion) to Trade and David Davis to a new Department for Brexit.  They are both fairly inexperienced and were outsiders and in the case of the former, a rabid Brexiteer.  Getting rid of Osborne was probably a mistake too; although I disagreed with his Austerity he was obviously a clever Minister and should have been moved sideways and kept in the Cabinet.  But Mrs. May was more interested in stamping her Authority and settling old scores than Continuity.

I suspect that she is trying desperately to square the un-squarable circle of how to leave the EU with minimal damage, both to the country and trade and to her electoral prospects.  If she loses the Single Market we will suffer a, possibly sustained, period of poor trade and growth.  If she keeps us in the Single Market she will have to accept free movement of people, which Agriculture and Business wants, but which she believes the British Public voted against. A rock and a hard place.  Which is why there is no real plan.  She will try to get both, or a degree of both from Europe.  Good luck to her, she will need it, but as of now there is no real plan.  They will probably make it up as they go along.  Why not, that’s how the Government has stumbled along for the past six and a half years.

I’m Getting Too Old For This Malarkey

Tuesday 15th November

Welcome to London, capital city of our blessed country and undoubtedly the city of the young.  I lived there for over forty years, travelling daily on the tube, strap-hanging and crammed into overcrowded trains, and despite the addition of new lines during that time, Victoria, Jubilee and the DLR the trains are even more overcrowded.  Just as building new roads simply draws more traffic onto them, so too do attempts at improving the transport in big Cities.  Though in Britain, we have the added problem that everything is so London-centric; no other city comes close in size or population or overcrowding.  And by the way HS2, which the new Government seems totally committed to, will only increase the volume of people commuting to London.  I was brought up in Stowmarket and it was at least a two hour slog into London.  The journey time now is 75 minutes and sleepy Stowmarket has become yet another commuter town, with new houses springing up like daffodils in the Spring sunshine.

This morning I am returning to blessed peaceful Eymet but have to get to Stansted by10ish.  The DLR (Dockland Light Railway), which has made the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf such a success and is incidentally completely driverless, has been recently extended to South London – all the way to Lewisham.  The result is that the trains are totally overcrowded; great for all those South Londoners who have suffered years of under-investment in the maze of Southern Region trains weaving their way into North London where most of the jobs are, but now it is almost impossible to get on a train at Island Gardens.  I had to let 4 go before squeezing, case and coat and all, onto the fifth.  No handle to hold but it didn’t matter, there was no danger of me falling over, it practically needed a crowbar and a gallon of WD40 to get me out at Bank.  Then the Central Line, one stop only, was just as crowded. Of course it is November, the month when hardly anyone is on holiday so the trains are even more crowded.  Even at Liverpool Street the Stansted Express was 5 minutes late and I couldn’t believe how many people were leaving the train, as again this is used by commuters.

I realize that though I used to suffer the Underground every day for over forty year I am getting too old for this malarkey.


Monday 14th November

I am back in England and visited Mum and Dad on Saturday.  We watched the Remembrance Festival from the Royal Albert Hall, and then yesterday the laying of the wreaths at the Cenotaph.  Of late I have tended to miss these TV programmes; they tend to have a same-ness about them, obviously – and I suppose in a busy life it is easier to miss them than to carve out a bit of time to watch.

It goes without saying that we must never forget.  But although we remember the dead; buying poppies, laying wreaths and of course in these Centenary years since the Great War (though there was nothing great about it) it seems particularly poignant.  But how strange that interspersed with a few days of Remembrance news we have new reports of villages around Mosul that have been captured, despite fierce opposition (which is shorthand for a lot of killing).  We hear little of the bombing raids on Syria, but they are still continuing while Donald Trump insists that Nato members must increase their Defence Spending, and mostly unreported, the increase in numbers of rough sleepers, many of them ex-soldiers.

On the one hand we almost celebrate death, and I don’t mean to demean any individual grief which must be all too real.  But the long grey coats peppered with medals worn by Generals, old and stiff in their demeanour are almost glorying in the show of militarism.  And worst of all the Politicians, ritually laying wreaths when maybe one day they will be committing young men to new deaths.  I just wish as much effort would be put into ending and preventing further bloodshed as it is in commemorating those who have already died.

I am an unashamed Pacifist.  Unless every single one of the enemy is killed you will have to sit down with them and start talking; why not cut out the middle man, War, and talk to our ‘enemies’ before we send in the bombers and the troops?

What a Week

Sunday 13th November

I am still trying to take it all in.  The Election of Donald Trump; against all expectations, but as the dust settles it seems all too obvious.  And the death of a ladies man – Leonard Cohen.

Firstly the Donald – who we all took at first as some sort of a joke, then as a threat and now as a complete unknown.  The more we heard from him the less coherent he sounded, constantly contradicting himself, finger pointing and accusatory one minute and conciliatory the next.  The man himself is eminently un-likeable, especially to European sensibilities; I have never before seen such condemnation and revulsion, from both panel and audience as on Thursday night’s Question Time.  But we must be pragmatic; we will have to deal with him.  We must also not rush to judgement, despite a despicable campaign – we have to wait and see what he actually does.  We also have to understand just why he succeeded, despite his obvious shortcomings.  There has been a quiet revolution going on, the election of Syriza in Greece, Brexit and now Trump.  Their voters almost don’t care what they do or do not do; they represent change, a tearing down of the old establishment.  What will happen when even these mavericks disappoint will be the real point.  We have to wait and see.

And then the death of my mentor and most adored poet and friend (yes, friend  -though we never met – we were best of friends).  Ever since I first heard Suzanne and Marianne I was in love with the words, the poetry and the voice.  I have been reading so many tributes and emotions of sadness on facebook.  They are wrong.  We must rejoice, as Leonard would wish us to.  He is finally released from his suffering.  But his songs and his words will live on.  He revealed so much about Love and Religion and Healing and the wonder of how to overcome everything life throws at us; I will forever be grateful.  And he has achieved what so few of us do, immortality – his words and songs will never die, they have taken on a life of their own.  So rejoice, don’t cry.  There is a crack, a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.


Saturday 12th November

Phil put off telling his father until December, when he’d already been working for a couple of months.  Jameson had straightaway given him all the conveyance-ing paperwork to do, all the tedious little details, but Phil showed willing and often stayed late, always got things done quickly and never complained.  Jameson had a partner, Jones, but they didn’t really seem to get on; they just looked after their own clients and didn’t really speak to each other at work at all.  Phil got on okay with Jones though, and he would give him odd jobs to do too, so he was already learning to keep his options open.  Jones found out that he was seeing June quite quickly too, Phil was never good at keeping a secret, and Jones told him that if he was thinking of marrying to let him know, as he knew of a few properties going ‘on the cheap’, and could fix him up with a mortgage “no trouble”.

Phil’s trouble was his father, who he was sure would not only disapprove of the marriage altogether, but would insist that they wait, for years maybe, before doing anything stupid like actually getting married.  In the end he took June round there that first Christmas, and while she was helping his mother with the washing-up in the kitchen his father and he sat either side of the coal fire, and, he with a glass of scotch in his hand, and Phil with  a Pale Ale, he started to unwind.  For the first time in Phil’s life he was actually treating him like an equal and just talking to him.  He told him that he had always had high hopes for him as the only child, and knew that Phil wouldn’t let him down.  He had received good reports from Jameson; the old boy thought Phil was very methodical, which was apparently a positive.  His father suddenly turned to him and asked if he was really serious about June.

“More serious than I have ever been before.” he replied, without a passing thought, turning his pint glass round and round in his hands.

“Good.” His father said firmly, banging his knee with the flat of his palm, “Then don’t be a fool and let her slip away, she looks like a good one.  I knew the moment I saw your mother she was the girl for me, and I wasn’t wrong there Phillip. And she has never let me down, not once.  Let me know when you are thinking of getting married and I’ll see what I can do.”

And he really came good for them too, Phil was utterly surprised. He gave them a decent deposit to buy a house, and Jones knew of this place that needed a fair bit of work but it had belonged to an old boy who had died alone and his family wanted shot of the house quickly.  They picked it up for a few hundred pounds and no mortgage but Jones reckoned it was worth over a thousand, and Phil actually got nearly two for it a couple of years later after they put in an indoor toilet and a bath.  A new cooker and a kitchen sideboard, a few rolls of wallpaper and it looked spanking modern.  Phil already knew the local estate agents, and the Building Society manager, so there was no trouble getting a mortgage for the house he really wanted.  He’d had his eye on it for while; it had been empty for a couple of years.  It was far too big really, six bedrooms, and that put most people off, “Too expensive to heat” they all said.  Well, Phil thought, you don’t have to live in every room to begin with, and it was far cheaper than it should have been, and right in the centre of town too.  They moved in after only a couple of years of marriage, June had to keep working to help pay for the mortgage, but Jameson had increased his wages when they got married, so they managed okay in the end.

*  * *

June had to admit that Phil was very clever with money, she’d never earned enough to save any money herself, and all her mother ever did was moan about not having any, but Phil seemed to know how to make money grow. “The trick is”, he used to say, “to use other people’s money to make money for you.”  June had really liked their first house, it was in a small terrace of six, just off the main road, but not far out of town, so she could still get the bus in to work.  But it was never enough for Phil, he always had big ideas, and he said he wanted to live in a big house with a drive and gates and all, and that he would one day, “and sooner than you think, my girl.”

They had a quiet wedding, “No point wasting money that we needed to do up the house,” Phil had said.  June wouldn’t have minded something a bit grander, but she didn’t argue with him.  Where money was concerned June always let him have his way, she would have hers where it really mattered.  But what annoyed her most was her sister Julie insisting on bringing her farmhand Ted along, he just didn’t fit in, though Phil seemed to like him, so she couldn’t really argue.

“What the hell are you doing here,” she hissed at him, while they were waiting for drinks at the bar, “This is my wedding.  I don’t want you spoiling it.”

“Now why would you think I might do that?” Ted replied looking genuinely hurt.

“You know damned well why Ted Wasp, you’re going out with my sister, as if that wasn’t bad enough.”

“Well, you didn’t want me anymore, did you June, so your sister is next best thing in my reckoning.”   He had this idiotic broad grin plastered all over his face, the face June had once smothered in kisses.

“Well, just remember I am marrying Phil today, so keep your big mouth shut, okay.”

“Oh I’ll do that alright, wouldn’t do to upset your nice Solicitor husband now would it?” and he smiled that old cock-eyed smile she knew so well.  “But I have to warn you Julie, like it or not, I will be marrying your sister.  But then that needn’t bother you need it, you and I is finished, long time ago too.” He said with a conspiratorial wink in his eye.

“Just remember that then.” she warned him with a scowl.  And then he slipped away, and every time she looked round he had his hand round her sister Julie’s waist, and Julie had no idea what Ted and her used to get up to only a few short years ago.  Nobody did; she had never told anyone about Ted and her, and she certainly didn’t intend to start now.

Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye…

Friday 11th Novemeber 2016

For the first and maybe only time two blogs today.

Leonard Cohen has died.  We all knew it wouldn’t be long after Marianne herself slipped away.  But death is not the end.  Leonard Cohen will live on; in poems, in his two novels, in his beautiful albums – and most of all in our memory.

I had the wonderful experience of seeing him live three times.  And for me he comes alive again every time I play his records.  That deep warm and expressive voice that sung, sometimes mournfully, sometimes ecstatically, always beautifully.  And the immaculate words, like those of all great poets will live on and on….

“I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,                      Your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm                                Many loved before us, I know we are not new                                                In cities and in forests they smiled like me and you                                And now it’s come to distances and both of us must try

Your eyes are soft with sorrow  – hey that’s no way to say goodbye…

Goodbye Leonard, Thankyou for a  lifetime devoted to Beauty.