Maybe We Should Just Smile

Tuesday 31st January

Because in the end we have to; getting upset and crying won’t change things.

I was pretty unhappy in the small hours of June 24th last year as the early results were confirmed time and again and Brexit marched on to a narrow, but a victory nonetheless.  I hoped against hope that a new Leader of the Tories might seek a more neutral path; try to find a middle way between leaving and retaining the best bits of the EU.  At least we will have a real debate now in Parliament, and although I fully expect most M.P.s to allow the triggering of Article 50, there is still the chance of one or more amendments getting through.  And at last some real dissension.  Not that any that will change the suicidal course Mrs. May is taking.  She seems hell-bent on pleasing the Little Englanders and getting re-elected than she does in listening to commonsense.  But hey, all you can do is smile….

They say we get the Government we deserve, and maybe that is true.

And as America draws up the drawbridge and chooses an isolationist and Protectionist path, all we can do is smile again.  (And hope of course that it all doesn’t go too badly wrong.)  In the grand scheme of things it may not make that much difference.  And if it all goes wrong maybe people won’t be so daft next time…or maybe they will.  In a strange way the older I get the less I can really get upset by it all.   I do worry about the future for my Grandchildren, but maybe Global Warming and Roboticisation (is that a word even?) and Artificial Intelligence will be far more profound problems they may have to face than a Billionaire lunatic on the loose.

And the World is remarkably resilient too.  We have survived too horrific World Wars and each time managed to build a better world.  We have this strange ability to both fuck things up and come up with solutions almost at the same time.  So, my advice to you all is simply to smile.  Too many mirrors in the world to do anything else I am afraid.

So How Do We Respond?

Monday 30th January

In the face of a bully, just exactly how does one respond?  Turn the other cheek and you will be slapped just as hard on the other side of you face.  Try to bully him back and you risk everything just escalating into an even bigger fight; besides he has the biggest army, the most weapons, the craziest generals.  Walk away smiling and refuse to listen to his brutal remarks anymore – that won’t stop him; do you really think he cares if you’re listening.  Try to persuade as many friends as possible to join you in arguing him down and he will call you all liars, part of the conspiracy he was elected to destroy.

There really is nothing you can do, except refuse to be bullied even if that means he hates you.  Trade deal or no trade deal you cannot reason with a megalomomaniac.  Mrs May might have to smile and call his election (where he came second) a ‘stunning’ victory, she will in her pursuit of a new trading partner have to put up with awkward questions, she may have to refuse to condemn his love of and possible use of torture, and she may have to defend the indefensible in public while loathing him in private – but we don’t have to.  We MUST stand up and fight.  This was how Nazi Germany started.  And incidentally about the same time after another fateful World Financial crash too.

Donald Trump is a bully.  An egotistical and dangerous bully.  At the moment he looks pretty confident as his hand-picked team (most of whom are not actually vetted and approved by Congress yet) close in and try to re-assure him that he is right.  Most Republicans would rather have a bad Republican President than a good Democrat, but as we will find here in Britain too, opposition more often comes from within.  And remember that none of his Executive Orders has really come into force yet.  There is confusion as to the legality of much of it, some may be softened or actually rejected by Congress and the Senate if not by the judiciary.

The biggest danger is that he will try to pick a fight with Iran, or rather his best buddy Israel will.  And then we will see whether Putin is his other best friend or not.  Let us hope that wiser heads stop him.

In the mean-time we must protest.  We must let our voices be heard, especially we must not turn our backs on Europe just because we are scared of offending him.  And let us not forget ridicule.  Here is a man who takes himself far too seriously, can you imagine almost anyone else calling his buildings Trump Tower?  Comedians may strangely become our best weapons in this new War of words.  It may be a long struggle but he must not be allowed to win.

Can It Get Any Worse?

Sunday 29th January

It is just over a week since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of America.  And every day he has made the headlines, making speeches and signing Executive Orders as if they were Christmas cards.  He is aptly named because it seems every new day he trumps the last in outrageousness.

His Inauguration Speech was bad enough – “America First”, because in Trumpspeak America has been savaged and ripped off in trade deals over the years.  This from a Republican, when many of those trade deals were set up and signed by Bush (obviously a traitor of the first water – who knew?).  And even those signed by Obama have been viewed by the rest of the World as more than favourable to America.

He has re-instated the pipelines, many crossing Indian Reservations, which Obama had placed on hold while Environmental concerns were investigated.  He has offered American manufacturers tax cuts to establish factories back in America and threatened tariffs on goods from abroad.  He has cancelled a Trans-Pacific Trade deal which took years to negotiate.  Both of the above may not be wholly bad, but will probably have a negative impact on World Trade and prosperity.  He has cancelled all State Aid to any NGO which propagates abortion or even contraceptive advice in any part of their operations.  A move which will at the very least continue the misery for many women in the third world.  Obamacare is destined for repeal too (just don’t be poor and ill in America)

He has met Theresa May and preened like a schoolboy getting a gold star from teacher as she obsequiously praised him on his ‘stunning’ victory (nearly 3% lower than Hilary’s vote).  This seems rather strange; praising the one who got less votes where here she is totally disregarding the concerns of Remain who also lost by around the same margin – but, hey – that’s Politics.

He has again promised ‘The Wall’, which some analysts say will cost 50 Billion dollars, who knows if it will ever be built – but Donald still insists Mexico will pay for it.

And just yesterday he did what seems so far the worst…banning all visitors (even those apparently with green cards) from seven Muslim countries.  Chaos at airports as innocent people are turned away or stopped from even getting on their planes.  Iran has already retaliated, others are bound to follow.  How cruel, and how Racist.

And we have almost become immune to it, numb and dumb we stand like rabbits caught in the headlights as the juggernaut rolls on.  Can it possibly get any worse?  Almost certainly.  That is the real tragedy.  There is no end to this nightmare.

The Decorator

Saturday 28th January

The Decorator hesitated for a moment; then he spoke “But Sir, I cannot paint.  I mean – I can paint a wall or a ceiling or a door.  But I have never painted a picture, let alone a portrait.”

The Chamberlain smiled. “His majesty knows that, but we have a problem. He was betrothed to the Lady Miranda when he was 12 and she just 9.  He has never seen her and now that she is 16 he must marry or bring shame on her whole family.  But the King is young and headstrong.  He refuses to wed until he sees his bride; he values Beauty over Duty.  You are commissioned to decorate the Lady Miranda’s private quarters I understand”

“Yes, but she, or rather I, will be screened off.  A movable partition of sheets will be hung to prevent even me seeing her accidentally while I work.”

“Well, you will just have to do your best.  Try to catch sight of her and on your return paint her image for his Majesty.”

The decorator was frightened, but what could he do.  Refusal could result in death; an un-flattering portrait – the King’s wrath.  Besides he had never painted a picture before.  He had never tried, he was a humble decorator.

His commission began and despite his best efforts he was constantly shielded from the merest glimpse of the Lady; all he could hear was her voice.  Like a vibrant mountain stream it glided and trickled gently over moss-covered rocks.  He was captivated, entranced and bewitched. Returning home he mixed his colours and in broad passes he filled the canvas with wide and bold brush strokes, delicately feathering the colours into each other.  Gentle sunrise yellows snuggled up to soft pinks and curved around clouds of Magenta and Alizarine crimson; soft purple billows bled into humming-bird blue.  No-one had ever painted anything like it, but the decorator knew that he had captured her voice and her soul.

The Chamberlain was horrified when he saw the decorator’s work.  “This is appalling, the King asked for a portrait, not this mess of hideous colours”

“I am sorry, but it was the best I could do – besides, I think she is lovely.”

When the king saw the painting he demanded to see the decorator. “What does this mean? I asked for a portrait, I can see no image here.”

“Sir, I am a humble decorator.  I never saw the Lady once – all I heard was her beautiful soft voice. And, your Majesty, that is what I painted.”

“It is quite incredible I must admit, such colours, such vibrancy. If she is any way as beautiful and as colourful as her voice here, I will marry her.   But this painting must be removed to my private chambers at once.  No-one else must see this. Ever. Now be gone quick before I change my mind.”


Friday 27th January

Sometimes they would play outside, Harriet and Jane.  They were never more than a few streets from the open country, and they spent hours in the fields and hedgerows in the summer, or had picnics in little copses, a blanket spread on the ground and their few dollies in a row in front of them.  Harriet would make sugar sandwiches and boiled eggs, and with a bottle of Corona (Jane’s favourite was Cherryade) and a bag of Smiths Crisps with its’ little twisted blue bag of salt they would set out with a battered old teddy in a little toy pushchair for a picnic.  Sometimes they would just wander up country driveways and look around the farms (the farmers never seemed to mind), and look at the pigs.  It was always the pigs they headed for, especially the fat old sows on their sides in the farrowing sheds, with their rows of bloated red teats hanging out, and all the squealing little piglets fighting for a teat to suck, fighting and squabbling with each other when just a few inches away there was always one going spare.  The old sows would look up at them as they hung over the rusty metal railings above them, imploring them for some food.

“Do you think they are thinking like us?” Harriet would say. “You know.  Thoughts, like we think, people thoughts.  Or do you think they just think piggy thoughts?”

“I don’t know, they can’t speak, can they? So maybe they can’t think their thoughts in words like we do.” Jane replied, “but I am sure they do think about things all the same.”

And later Jane would recall how much humanity there was in those sow faces, how their eyes were almost human, somehow far more human than the human sow faces she saw in the streets, not really sows at all she used to think.  Though she never said this to Harriet, she might think her stupid or something, but maybe they knew they were just a few litters away from bacon themselves, maybe they knew they were really far cleverer than us. Or maybe they were just hungry and could smell our sandwiches from a few feet away.

*  * *

Harriet nagged her father into having the pool installed.  She nagged him until he got one.   It was not a real pool, no-one had real pools, but this was no blow-up affair either.  This pool was a dark green canvas and metal pole construction that was at least three feet deep and several yards long.  They had white plastic basket-weave loungers and chairs around it too, and it was here that their mother often entertained her friends to long lunches around the pool, the drinks flowing freely, as the late afternoon sun slid past the fruit trees and the long shadows crept over the lawn and right up to the pool itself.  The girls wore little sundresses and floppy white cotton hats, or sometimes when it was really hot they would run around in just their pants as their little bodies turned first to gold and then to brown.  No-one bothered about suntan lotion or skin cancer, the sun was there to be worshipped, and the sun was one of the few things June did seem to worship.  With a glass of red wine in her hand and her eyes shut she seemed absolutely contented with her life in the sun by the pool, or maybe it was just the wine that made her feel good, drifting and dreaming of being somewhere else entirely.

Too hot to play or make up games Harriet and Jane would lay on a lounger together and whisper secrets until one or the other of them would drift off into sleep.  And then when they woke all bleary-eyed in the sun there would be a pitcher of lemonade and a plate of biscuits or rock cakes to eat.

* * *

Harriet had wanted a pool, and so she had asked Daddy for one.

“Now what do you want a pool for Harriet?  You know that Mummy will take you to the big swimming pool in town anytime you like, you only have to ask her?” He said, trying in that sly adult way to divert and placate her.

But she wasn’t going to be fobbed off that easily.  “Penelope Watkins says they have one in their garden, Penelope’s father is a Doctor, and they have a house near Ipswich and they have a real pool in their garden and she can swim every day if she wants to, in her very own pool.” she said with what she thought was impeccable logic.

“Well, my Dad, your Granddad in Norwich, you know, he is a Doctor too, and he doesn’t have a pool.  And we wouldn’t want to have to dig a big hole in that nice lawn in our garden would we now?” Daddy countered.  As if the digging of the hole had anything do with anything.

“Can’t we have just a little pool then.”  If a big hole was such a problem, we could have a smaller hole dug reasoned Harriet.  “Please Daddy say you’ll think about it.”

“Oh I’ll think about it, thinking about it won’t cost anything.” He said, as if that had finished the discussion.   But Harriet kept reminding him, every day when he came in from work she would ask if he had thought about it yet.  She didn’t miss a single day, until one day he told them to get in the Bentley, they were going to look at swimming pools, and though they didn’t have a real concrete pool built into the garden they did have quite a large pool, and it took two men a whole day to build it, and almost a day to fill it up with a hose that stretched all the way to the garden tap at the front of the house.  So; triumphed Harriet ‘Penelope Watkins, you aren’t the only girl in the school with a pool, we have one too.’

*  * *

June certainly thought the pool was wonderful; it took the edge off her boredom between calls from Ted.  All her old girlfriends and some of the mums she met at the girl’s school were so jealous, and she would invite them round on sunny days in the summer, and they would sit around and drink wine and chat about old times when they were at school together or working at Dormans, and the afternoons would slip by so easily.   It was the evenings June was beginning to resent.

She was killing time really, between the quite infrequent visits from Ted.  He couldn’t just slip away from work, he had to be away from the farm on some business, buying a piece of equipment in Ipswich, or if old farmer Turner was away himself, and June never knew from one time to another when he would be able to get away again.  She had to make sure too that her sister wasn’t planning on coming around, the last thing she wanted was her barging in on them, so she told Ted to always make sure to let her know a couple days before he would be coming to see her, and she would pop round to see her sister and let her know she was going to Norwich on Tuesday, or some other excuse.  She even used the ruse that she would be home late once or twice and could she do June a favour and look after the girls ‘till she collected them on her way home (on her way home after dropping Ted off first of course).  She felt terribly guilty but then she felt guilty about the whole thing, though guilt somehow becomes manageable the more you have – and at least Julie would have her hands full with her two, so she wouldn’t be sitting there wondering where Ted had got to.

And then for days June would be so excited, just thinking about Ted and his kisses, and those rough hands rubbing themselves all over her body.  Sometimes she didn’t know how she kept going between his visits; it seemed as if she only came alive in his arms, the rest of the time she was just going through the motions, not really living at all.

Of course, the pool was a great distraction, and in the school holidays she would make it up to Julie by inviting her and her boys round nearly every day.  But Ted and she always had to put their activities on hold when Jane and Harriet were off school anyway.  Why on earth did they have to be off for six whole weeks every summer though; she used to long for September and her freedom again.

S – is for Bruce Springsteen – the Boss?

Thursday 26th January

Well I have never thought so.  Bruce is good at what he does, but he has been hailed as the new Dylan, the new Elvis even – I would place him in the second tier of Rock and Rollers, but the hype has never been missing from Bruce.  He burst onto the scene in 1973 with “Greetings from Asbury Park N.J.” and has released albums regularly ever since.  His biggest successes were “Born to Run” (1975) and “Born in the USA”  (1984).  I really love the latter where every song is brilliant; the anti-war title track, the rousing ‘Darlington County’ and the wonderful ‘Dancing in the Dark’.  It was a massive hit worldwide and Bruce has never looked back since.

I have never seen Bruce live but apparently with the E-street band he does phenomenal concerts.  But rather than the great rocker I prefer the quieter Bruce.  Every so often he confounds fans and critics alike by releasing a quite slow album; “Nebraska” (1982), “The Ghost of Tom Joad” (1995) and “Devils and Dust” (2005).  These tend to be more Social Concern records, and Bruce has always sung about ordinary working Americans, sung often in little more than a whisper over subtle backings.  My very favourite being “Ghost”, where he sings of miners and immigrants and ‘Sinaloa Cowboys’, these records are so different but they seem more heartfelt, more honest to me.

Anyway I have bought quite a few of Bruce’s records, but he remains just second tier for me…

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Why Did She Ever Think Otherwise?

Wednesday 25th January

We have just had the final judgement from the Supreme Court regarding who is allowed to trigger Article 50 which will start the process of our leaving the European Union. This was a legally binding decision.  The whole reason for the Court case in the first, second and third place was down to the arrogance of Theresa May.  Early on she told Parliament that the Government and the Government only had the right to trigger Article 50.  This was an attempt by her and her fellow Brexiteers to bulldoze us all into a hurried and self(her)determined decision as to exactly what Brexit would mean.

Now, although I regret the decision of the British Public to leave the EU, I do accept that any Government has little option but to put into motion the negotiations to exit the EU.  But…what did the public actually tell us on 23rd June?  Very little, because they were simply given the option of yes or no.  We do not know the reasons, any individual or even a majority of voters, which persuaded them to vote NO.  For many it may have been the fictitious promise of £350 million a week for the NHS, for many it may have been an intrinsic dislike of immigrants, for others it was the Sovereignty of Parliament, which last seems strange, in light of the attempt to side-step Parliament before discussions even begin.  At first Mrs. May insisted that Brexit simply means Brexit, but we slowly learnt that controlling immigration was her priority (even though we have singularly failed to control non-EU immigration for years).  She has now decided that she cannot control EU immigration without us leaving the Single Market; her logic then goes on that if we leave the Single Market but remain in the Customs Union we won’t be able to negotiate our own trade deals (to replace the lost advantages of the Single Market), so that must go as well.  She also wants (strangely) to negotiate a new trade arrangement with Europe which is tariff-free and as simple as possible.  I say strangely because we already have that, but she wants to ditch it.  As far as I can see her whole strategy is to give the country the illusion that everything is fine, our markets are secure but we can now stop all these wretched Poles and Rumanians from coming here.

But now she will have to be questioned by Parliament; there will be many amendments which may or not succeed, but she will have to go into far more detail about her negotiating strategy, and may be tied down to certain red lines.

There was no way after losing the first case and the High Court Appeal, so why did she ever think she stood a chance, of succeeding in the Supreme Court?  Was it Arrogance or simple Stupidity; either way it bodes ill for negotiating skills and her Optimism about just how she will get access to the Single Market without accepting Free Movement of people.  My best guess is that we will get a deal and we will also have to accept Immigration from Europe, maybe involving some form of Visa, and we will have to contribute to the EU.  So, at the end of the day nobody will really be happy…

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Some Inconvenient Facts

Tuesday 24th January

We ignore facts at our peril.  Statistics, as we know can be presented in such a way as to paint a picture which does not exactly correlate with the facts.  For example, I would hazard a guess that almost all my readers are above average in the leg department; having two whereas because a very few have lost one or both legs the average is slightly lower than two.

But certain facts are incontrovertible.  At the time of the referendum much was made of the U.K.s contribution to the EU; £350 million per week was blazoned across buses and our TV screens.  When our rebate is taken into consideration the real figure is just less than half of that sum.  An inconvenient fact.  When one takes into consideration the individual rebates made to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy, many being quite wealthy landowners, and regional grants made by the EU the true figure is far less.  In fact when one, thanks to Mr. Gideon Osborne, receives a breakdown of how total Government Revenue is spent it transpires that our net contribution to the EU is right at the bottom of the list at 1.1%.  Just above that is Overseas Aid at 1.2%.

Another inconvenient fact is that Defence Spending, which is often the subject of fierce debate comes in at 5.2%.  Just above that is interest (not repayments – heaven forfend we should ever repay our debts) due on our huge National Debt at 5.3%.  And this when interest rates are the lowest for years, and after almost 7 years of Austerity.  The reason is simple – low taxation.  The share of GDP raised in taxation (including the 2010 hike in VAT) is just above 35%; this is historically very low, even under Maggie it was above 40%.  Government Ministers wring their hands when the NHS is struggling, or beds are blocked by a lack of Social Care (mostly because local councils have been forced to make severe cuts), and say we simply cannot afford it.

In fact we can afford whatever level of taxation the Government chooses to impose.  I can remember paying 33 pence in the pound Income Tax in the Seventies.  The reality of economics is that prices will more often reflect the public’s ability to pay than the cost of the products to the seller.  And yes, higher taxes may well cause an increase in inflation; but inflation at around 5% is actually a very good thing.  If you can borrow £100 pounds but pay it back when £100 is only worth £95 then you are in pocket, as mortgage holders discovered all through the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties.  Also wage increases of around 1 or 2 % leave you feeling no better off, but an increase of 5% even if prices are rising by the same amount gives you an immediate good feeling.  Savers presently struggle to see the point of saving with miserable rates, a touch of higher interest rates would help encourage saving.  Of course increasing taxes is never popular, but nor is a crumbling NHS or school classes increasing or libraries closing or your grandparents stuck in a Hospital bed because there is no provision for them in the Community.

All Government decisions are choices, even Brexit.  Soft, Hard or Red White and Blue – it is a choice, but let’s not allow inconvenient facts to blur our rose-coloured vision.

The Big Freeze

Monday 23rd January

I can remember quite clearly the Winter of 1963.  It started snowing in early January and barely stopped until some time in late March.  And although this little cold spell we have had seems cold it is nothing compared to that.  I was just 12 and in my first year at Grammar School and still in short trousers.  You might have thought that that experience would have hardened me to the cold, but no – I still hate it.

We had been visiting my Auntie Pam at Creeting St. Peters one Sunday and the snow started to come down in a swirling blizzard.  When it came time to leave the Morris Oxford was snowbound and Mum and Dad decided to walk the three or four miles back to Stowmarket leaving my sister and I to share a bed with my three female cousins.  We were there for a few days until rescued.

I can remember trudging to school through snow inches high, wet shoes, and wet socks hung over the paraffin heater when I got home.  Terrible chapped legs where my shorts rubbed my cold legs.  I was small in those days, the smallest in my class – the runt of the litter (I think that was what they were calling me).  We still had to play football one afternoon a week even though the pitch was a frozen field of snow topped with ice, no mercy from Soapy Soames the Sports Master.  You could barely see the ball as we ran around just to keep warm, 22 boys chasing a ball because if you stood still you might freeze solid.  Then the luxury of a hot shower after, even if Soames and the girl’s Sports Mistress would occasionally peep in.  We used to hug the radiators as we got dressed again it was so cold.  Then the cold walk home with wet hair; day after day it went on, the snow turning to black sludge which built up in ruts and then froze into solid icy roadside mountains.  It put me off Winter forever, and as these sub-zero morning continue I can’t wait for a bit of rain and milder temperatures.


Sunday 22nd January

Jane quite liked school but looked forward mostly to her sister Harriet collecting her.  They would often return to an empty and dark house, and do for themselves until one or other of their busy and slightly negligent parents would return.  A cursory check that they were okay would suffice and then they would be left on their own again to get on with it until called down for dinner.  They had learned to be pretty self-sufficient – Harriet a dab hand at making sandwiches from whatever leftovers she could glean from the pantry.  This was the late fifties, so although there was a television, this was an adult-operated machine, only to be switched on by one or other of their parents; the girls wouldn’t have dared do it themselves.  It would take an age to warm-up too, and there was only the single channel to watch, so they would invariably play in their bedroom together.

Harriet would take the lead, coming up with the ideas and Jane forever happy to go along with them.  She sometimes made up the games and the rules as she went along, but was so inventive and confident that Jane never questioned her right to be right.  And they were content in their little world, isolated by their very isolation in that too-large house; they would lose themselves in cold spare bedrooms that were only used at Christmas.  They would lay under the big metal bedsteads looking up at the rusty springs and the fluff balls that floated around in the recently disturbed air, or bury themselves in their parents wardrobes, burrowing deeper and deeper through the multiple layers of coats and dresses until in opposite corners they were in total and muffled darkness, the musty smell of mothballs and clothes overpowering them and bringing on fits of giggling, until one or the other of them would break for air.

*  * *

Phil was juggling money every day, he seemed to have his finger in so many pies he could hardly keep on top of it.   When his bank statement hit the doormat he was almost afraid to open it, could he have really spent that much last month.  He would be forever starting new exercise books and writing down all his commitments, and receipts, he had several accounts with different banks by now and a couple of deposit accounts in building societies too, and he was forever slipping out at lunchtime to transfer money from one bank into another.  It was a real headache trying to keep track of it all.  It seemed that he was just expected to come up with money by everyone; the girls’ school fees to be paid or June needing money for clothes or her mother needing a new carpet which he, Phil, was expected to provide; everyone just assumed he could afford it and would pay for it all.  But somehow he always managed to smile and find the money somewhere.

He should have been able to manage, he knew that.  On paper it all made sense; his salary plus the rents he was receiving on the shops more than exceeded the loans and the bills.  But that was on paper, and he always seemed to forget something, like the Rates bill every year, or the car’s service every six months.  As soon as one loan was paid off he seemed to need another, though the bank managers were more than happy to advance him a couple of thousand, they didn’t even ask Phil what he needed it for after a while.  That was the way they did things in those days, it was all done on trust, everyone knew you, you were a valuable customer – and trust was everything.

The Practice was doing well too; they were busier than ever, they had two trainees now and an assistant for Janet, but that didn’t stop Phil having to work late far too often for comfort.  Jones was much better at running the show than Jameson had been, far more efficient.  He would send out reminders about unpaid bills, and insist on monies being paid upfront by their business clients whereas Jameson had been happy to wait months to be paid for the work.

“No good harrying our regular clients for our fees, they’ll be needing us again soon enough, and we don’t want them going elsewhere next time do we?” he had been heard to say.

But Jones’s mantra was “Can’t pay? Sorry, can’t do the work.”  And sure enough, they usually coughed up.

*  * *

And then, all of a sudden, Ted rang June one morning.  Phil had just left for work and Jane and Harriet were almost ready to leave for school.  Ted and Julie didn’t have a phone so he must have been ringing from the phone box at the bottom of their road.

“Hello June” he said in that deep and sexy voice of his.  June was so surprised, she hadn’t been expecting him to phone; hardly anyone did actually – during the day anyway.  She couldn’t see why Phil had wanted the thing installed, but he was always getting calls, at all hours of the night too, so she supposed he needed it for his work.

“Oh, hello Ted, is everything alright?  Hang on a minute, I’m just seeing Harriet and Jane out of the door, I won’t be a tick.”

“So, June, are you on your own?” he asked almost conspiratorially.

“Well yes, you know that Ted, I am always here on my own.”  And she was – the being alone was half her problem.

“So, is it okay if I pops round this morning, just for a chat like.” He said, so casually.

“Yes Ted, that would be lovely.”

Lovely?  ‘My God,’ she thought, ‘it would be more than lovely.’

“See you in about an hour then June.”  And he rung off, it was as simple as that.  It hadn’t crossed her mind to ask what he really wanted.  She knew what might happen of course, she had been thinking of little else.  She knew that she wanted it, and she knew how wrong it was to be wanting him too.  She just had no way of stopping herself.  The sensible part of her knew that this was stupid, this was the last thing she should be doing, but then when did that ever stop anyone.