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WILDE ABOUT THE MAN

I hadn’t realised how often I quoted the wonderful Oscar Wilde until this incident. I have used “Hell is other people” and “An optimist will tell you the glass is half-full; the pessimist, half-empty, I will tell you it’s time for another drink” (I have paraphrased that last part of course) I am in awe of the mind of this giant intellect. There is nothing I would have wanted more than to sit at the feet of this driven impatient man and listen.

One day I was talking to a dear work mate. To say the guy enjoyed a libation was akin to saying I enjoyed breathing. The night before may have been a heavy one, because he didn’t look particularly cheerful, so I asked “How are you today me old mucker?” He replied “I’m so low I’m in the gutter Kate” I could not help my response, in my head there are lines waiting to be used, I have no control. More of that later. “We are all of us in the gutter Gerry, but some of us are looking at the stars” I replied. I was pleased to see he looked a little happier, I discerned a wry smile, so I left on that thought and went back to work. Unbeknownst to me Gerry then moved amongst the rank and file, quoting me and extolling my wit and wisdom. I am so lucky that I managed to explain to him that I had quoted one of my idols before someone shot me down as an imposter. The thought was not mine own, much as I wished it was.

Talking without thinking first is one of my many failings, here’s one example. I was chatting to the guys in my technical team one day about the kind of person one is attracted to. I said “ My oldest daughters goes for the blonde American Life Guard type, the other likes someone who’s into the Arts. For me it’s the Mr. Spock, dark and brooding intellectual mind and lean physic.” One lovely young girl who was new to my team joined in with “I don’t have a type Kate, what does that say about me?” Without missing a beat I said “That just says your easy” Oops! The other guys quickly reassured her I had simply responded to the line she had given me.

Someone then told the story of a chap who used to work with us and my now infamous one liner . This poor guy had not been lucky in love. Each Monday morning began with a litany of his disastrous liaisons. But this Monday was different. He bounced into the workplace and announced “I have a new girlfriend, she’s a keeper” to which I replied “That’s great, did she come with a foot pump?” I know, but don’t feed me the lines!

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MY BIKE

sidecar

This home-made Sidecar was my pride and joy, with a gull-wing door and sunroof. With my Suzuki 750 rocking the worst paint job ever and lotsa mud.

I was a motorbike fanatic, then my children came along,

but I really couldn’t take then for a ride.

Desperate times, desperate measures, I did the only thing I could,

I stuck a wooden box onto the side.

If you add two tents, four sleeping bags clothes, wellies and provisions,

then a dog, that’s quite a lot to lift.

The first time I packed them all into the sidecar,

I could not get the bloody thing to shift.

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VIZORIAN

Why did I decide to walk home from work that Friday night? That decision changed the way I saw the world. It opened a door I wish I could lock again and throw away the key forever. If only wild and stormy nights didn’t hold this fascination for me. It had always been the same, bundled up and warm I could walk for hours, watching the movement of the wind as it buffeted the trees and danced through the long grass. I enjoyed feeling it caress my face. I heard it’s song with so much pleasure whilst others locked the doors and pulled the curtains closed to block it out.

I was almost home when it happened. From out of the darkness that pooled between the street lamps a figure dashed towards me. I thought he was going to swerve around me but he didn’t. He stopped, grabbed my bag, and pulled me off my feet. I forgot all the advice I’d heard like “Don’t fight it, you are worth more than a bag and some cash.” I clung on to the handles while he screamed at me to let go. When I didn’t, he completely lost it and started to kick and punch me. I still held on, not prepared to let this lout away with it.

That didn’t last too long though. He bounced my head on the concrete and I blacked out. When I next opened my eyes there was a blinding light. I, of course, thought “Oh no, I’ve seen this before, I’m supposed to go into the light, well at least it looks like I’m going up and not down.” I blinked a couple of times and things became a little clearer. I felt my hand being held. I looked up into the eyes of a perfectly ordinary-looking guy with a huge stethoscope and a very sweet smile who said: “Hi, I’m Dr. MacDougal, can you tell me your name?” I replied, with no originality at all “I’m Alice, where am I?

Dr. MacDougal got out that little light thingy and flashed it into my eyes (ouch) and asked if I was experiencing double vision. “Well I am now,” I said. A little tetchily perhaps but this had not been the best night of my life so far. “When can I go home?” I asked. “We’ll have to keep you in overnight in case of concussion,” he replied “but you will probably be able to leave tomorrow morning. Is there anyone we can call for you?” “Oh heck,” I said “Julie will be frantic” “Your partner?” asked Dr. MacCool with a little frown. “No, no,” I said, “my best friend, I need to let her know what’s happened but I don’t have my phone, my keys, my wallet or my bag” “Don’t worry, the Police will deal with all that once they’ve taken your statement,” he said, looking more cheerful, “do you feel up to speaking to them?” “Yes, not that I can tell them much. He wore a hoodie and a scarf over his face” I said.

As I predicted the Q & A was as follows “Can you describe your assailant?” “No” End off. The police left and I tried to get some sleep. The next morning I felt so much better. Julie arrived with a change of clothes for me, it seems my bag was found a few streets away from the mugging with everything still in it apart from the cash. I said goodbye to Dr. MacCool who pressed his card into my hand and asked me to call him when I felt better. Oh yes! I didn’t do much for the rest of that day. I considered a little light dusting but I am a living oxymoron, I’m house proud but lazy. I felt a bit bruised and shaken but I’m not one for dwelling on what might have been so I was quite prepared to go back to work. Little did I know what the next day would bring.

Morning dawned and although I was a bit achy and shaky (cue for a song) I was determined to be up and at ’em. I owned a little shop called “Curiouser and Curiouser” full of, yes, you’ve guessed it, curiosities. After a huge cup of coffee, I jumped into the day with both feet. It was the afternoon when I heard the door behind me creak open. I didn’t like shop bells so the old door let me know when someone was coming in. I turned around and felt a miasma of cold dank odorous air that seemed to emanate from the tall dark very good looking man standing in the sunlit doorway. Every instinct in me screamed “Don’t ask him in” He spoke in the kind of mellow deep voice you might expect from an actor and of course that was what he was doing. he was trying to portray himself as normal but there was no real warmth there. “Can I come in?” he said. I tried not to show my repugnance and replied: “I am just closing up, I have a meeting which I’m already late for.” “That is a pity,” he said “It’s also a pity that the protective wards around your home and your shop are so powerful. Never mind, there is always another day. All good protagonists require a formidable foe and now I have the measure of mine” He turned and disappeared, I don’t mean he walked swiftly away, he disappeared. 

This was not good, I had thought he was dead. “He” was a demon called Vizorian who had used my power to make himself Lord Vizorian. I had been a prisoner in his realm all my life. Vizorian had killed my parents and taken me, using me to eliminate his opponents one by one. I didn’t murder anyone, however. My power was transportation in Time and Space. I just had to take them with me then drop them off in various spots all over the Universe. Of course, I could only go to places with breathable air so that narrowed it down somewhat. Well, it was normally Earth by default.

It usually took them back to a primitive time which was a simpler place with no electricity etc. I had long given up trying to escape. Normally he held me with wards and spells but then, one night, there was a huge celebration. I had just dropped off a demon who had been his second in command into the Wieliczka salt mine, in Poland in the 13th century. This punishment was meted out simply because the said demon had mentioned in passing he thought his master’s new cologne needed to be stronger. If you remember I did mention the awful odour that emanated from what was otherwise a quite good looking facade. I could not help feeling a little sorry for the guy, I mean, 13th century, salt mine, tough gig. Vizorian, for the first time, drank a lot and became careless for one second. That was all I needed. I hit him very hard with the business end of the axe he always carried, then I twisted away and I was gone.  

I chose Earth to start my new life. It was the only place I had any connection too that didn’t have terrible memories attached to it. Well, apart from the entities I had deposited in faraway places eons ago. I hoped they would not be surfacing in downtown Surbiton. I looked about eighteen when I escaped, my real age was closer to one hundred and eighteen. I am very small and frail-looking, which means people tend to think I need to be looked after. Not so, I am as strong as an Ox.

I didn’t want to get caught up in the system so I did the only thing I could to make money. When I first arrived I sold a few pieces of the gold jewelry given to me by Vizorian. With that, I followed the Stock Exchange daily and used the handy Arbitrage method. This was the simultaneous purchase of a security on one stock market and the sale of the same security on another stock market at prices which yielded a profit. Or so Google told me. I accrued enough to buy a small shop. The only thing I felt a little bad about was how I stocked it. Well, of course, you’ve sussed it out already haven’t you? I found out what was trendy, took a little jaunt back to when it was first produced, and brought back a few examples. Technically and morally a bit iffy? Perhaps, but I was giving the public what they wanted at affordable prices so I didn’t feel too bad.

Back to my present problem. I could not believe that Vizorian had found me! It must have been the blow to the head. My guard had been down just long enough for him to “see” me. Well, I wasn’t going to run again. I was no longer the vulnerable child I had been and I was going to fight back. But how? He was an ancient demon. Very powerful. Right, that said, he had a weakness. He believed he was irresistible to women. He thought he had charm, so not true. It was thinly disguised self-interest at best. This was what I had to play on. But how? Then came the lightbulb moment.

I would be putting myself in great jeopardy and I would have to act my socks off. I didn’t have a choice though, if I wanted any kind of life I had to try. I was so very grateful for the friends I’d made over the years and for the Internet too. I would need both to vanquish Vizorian. Firstly, having found a very old book of spells and recipes in the back of the shop, I started to compile a shopping list. This had to be odourless, colourless and the most powerful knockout potion ever made. Some of the ingredients would be easy to find, others not so much. Right, Wolf’s Milk (Euphorbia) tick. Witches Bells (Foxgloves) tick. Trickier to find would be Flesh & Blood (Tormentil) Honey Lotus (Melilot) and Helonias Dioica (Unicorn Horn) but my friend, The Village Witch, just happened to have an online shop and I knew she’d get these things to me in a thrice. 

It had been a long busy night, but I forced myself out of bed the next morning, knowing the end was in sight. I arrived at the shop and just as I expected, a couple of hours later a huge bunch of red roses was delivered with a note. “I have missed you Panora, can we meet and talk?” I had not heard that name since I had escaped his realm and it made me shudder. But this was good, let operation “Get The Git” begin. I asked the minion to wait and closed the shop door. I returned and gave him the note I had written the night before.

I know Dear Reader that you will be agog to know what was in the note. Please do not be too harsh in your judgment, there is a method in my madness, believe me. I set the tone at the start with “My Dear Vizorian” unexpected, yes? Then, “I was more pleased than I can express to get your note and the beautiful Roses. How sweet that you remembered they were my favourite flowers. I would be very pleased to talk with you. I hope you will understand if I request a public meeting place. There is a lovely French restaurant near my shop. I have booked a table for eight tonight. I have also asked for a bottle of champagne to be put on ice for us. I hope to see you then. I have changed a lot in the time since I left and so have my feelings. But we can talk about all that tonight. Till then, your Panora” I was as sure as I could be, knowing the fiend as I did, that he would fall for this drivel hook, line, and floaty thing. It may seem as though I was being OTT, but you must remember this stupid demon’s middle name was Vanity, too much was never too much.

I, of course, took a lot of time to get ready for my “date.” I primed, contoured, powdered then slapped on some dark red lippy. I combined this with a slinky, satiny, strappy Black dress, killer heels, and a lot of perfume, (remember that odour) I was ready. I received a text to say my taxi was waiting. I was not about to take any chances and walk to the restaurant, a rookie mistake my friend! I walked out of the shop door and straight into the arms of Dr. MacDougal. Drat it, why now? He looked me up and down with what I was pleased to see was appreciation. Then he frowned and said, “Sorry, is this a bad time?” Dam and drat it, this was the worst possible time.

I had to be quick so I mumbled something about a friend’s Birthday party. I said I would love to invite him along but it was a woman only do because my friend hated men. For goodness sake, why had I not just said it was a Hen Do, idiot! I inquired if he was free later on, he said yes he was. I asked him to be at my house at nine and tottered to the taxi. Not the best start to what was going to be a nerve-racking evening but the show must go on. (Cliche alert) When I got to the restaurant Vizorian was already sitting smugly at the table and I took a deep breath and smiled. Show Time. A bottle of champagne was chilling, as I had requested. After I had said Hello and sat down at the table, before he could start to talk, I beckoned the waiter over and asked him to open the bottle. Before he lifted the bottle Vizorian, as I had known he would, took it and examined it closely. “Yes, all seems in order,” he said, “go ahead and open it” The waiter expertly released the cork with a practised “pop” poured a glass for each of us and stood back. With a raised eyebrow Vizorian gestured for me to drink first, again as I expected. I took a hearty gulp then raised my glass in salute. The demon smiled at me, picked up his glass, then drank deeply. As I looked at him with hatred in my eyes I could see the second that realisation dawned. As he started to snarl and tried to stand it was as if the lights had gone out and he slumped into his chair. The waiter said loudly “Oh dear ma’am, it looks as though your friend has become unwell, let me help you to a cab” Between us, we got him out of the door, into the waiting cab and I wasted no time. I grabbed the arm of the man who had killed my parents, imprisoned me for years, and made me hurt countless people and demons and I twisted, taking him with me. I left him in the vast snow-covered wilderness of Oymyakon, in a time before time. With an extreme subarctic climate, it is known as the coldest place in the world. I knew I would feel guilty about what I had done, but it was the only way.

I twisted again and I was back home. I opened the door, to be met by dear Dr. MacDougal, the waiter, the cab driver, and The Village Witch. They were all speaking at once, obviously relieved to see me safe. I was shaking and near to tears but I had to smile when Jacob, my friend the waiter, produced the bottle of champagne from the restaurant and proceeded to pour us all a glass. “Don’t drink it” I hear you scream. No need to worry, we were quite safe. I knew the demon would not only check the seal on the bottle but also wait for me to take a drink first. Therefore the potion I had concocted had been put into Vizorian’s glass just before Jacob poured the champagne into it.

The idea had come to me when I had been trying to think of a way to get the demon to drink the potion. Suddenly I remembered something that would solve the problem. In a drawer at the back of the shop there was a replica poison ring. These were reputed to have been used by the Italian Renaissance femme fatale Lucrezia Borgia to great effect. It would be perfect. Vizorian held himself in such high esteem he would not even see the waiter. There was no way he could consider that Jacob might be a friend of mine either. So, no threat. All Jacob had to do was wear the ring with the plain band showing, the business end would be underneath. When he picked up the glass which had been on the table in front of Vizorian since he sat down all he had to do was flick open the tiny compartment in the ring with his thumb and drop the liquid into the glass.

The three people sitting in front of me had helped me with my plan tonight. I would always be grateful to them. They knew about me and accepted my differences. All that remained was to try to explain to Dr. MacSmoochy what had happened and who I was. I would not enter into a possible relationship with this lovely but confused man until he knew all about me. Maybe I would stick with the adage that a lady doesn’t divulge her age though.

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LOVE?

Love, a heady endorphin filled serotonin-induced fever,

forget the science, remember the hot tingling reaction to his smell,

imagine his hands, his body, close and getting closer,

you ache to feel again the shape you knew so well.

Darkness adds a dimension to the secret meetings,

that makes the needs and wants between you grow,

there is no right or wrong, there’s only you and him,

so you want the pace of passion to be slow.

You feel loss and loneliness when you are parted,

although stolen hours were once enough to ease the pain,

but jealousy has crept into your heart and stabs silver hot,

strident and relentless until you meet again.

You feel there’s a difference, what he has is not enough,

could he simply change his mind without a thought?

He has conquered, left you broken, there is no challenge left,

You have to leave, walk away now, pride alone is all you’ve got.

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LIQUID DARK

ELECTRIC SPARKS STRIKE SILVER ECHOES,

THROUGH LIQUID DARK SURROUNDING ME,

SULTRY FRISSONS ASSAULT EACH NERVE END,

TAKE THIS BLADE AND SET ME FREE.

 

I WAS NEVER MEANT TO STAY HERE,

EVERY HOUR MEANS EXTRA PAIN.

LET ME GO AND THEN FORGET ME

THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO GAIN.

 

WHY CALL ME BACK INTO THIS PRISON

MADE OF MEMORIES AND LIES?

TAKE SOLACE IN THE FUTURE,

AS ONE LIVES ANOTHER DIES.

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KEEP TALKING

Like my idol, Mr. Billy Connolly was wont to say, he spent his teenage years trying to look windswept and interesting and so did I. To this end I had bought a guitar meaning to sit in dark corners at parties and strum meaningfully. This necessitated being able to get a tune out of the thing, not happening, my friend. One of the guys at work had borrowed the guitar for a few weeks, had no more success than I did, and returned it that very day. I was a shy teenager, a real misfit and so I spent lots of time alone. I was at a loose end again this Friday night so on the way home I had a coffee in Waverley Train Station. I didn’t feel uncomfortable doing that even though I got some disproving looks, more of that later.
Sipping my coffee and musing on the fun one could have alone occupied me for a while then I suddenly felt I was being watched. I surreptitiously glanced around, going for cool and casual. Across the cafe at a table on his own was a blond guy, clearly in the Royal Navy, oh joy, I had a weakness for Matelots. Still, I could only make a cup of disgusting coffee last for so long and as people were pointedly looking for seats I reluctantly left the cafe and sat on a bench contemplating the long and empty evening ahead. I felt a shadow over me. I looked up and to my utter delight, there was six foot of utter smooch looking down at me. He spoke, or at least I thought he did, all I heard “Blah de Blah de Blah” but in this incredible Liverpudlian accent. Beatle mania was at its height so all my dreams could come true if he wasn’t just asking for directions.
It transpires he wasn’t lost, it seems he was asking if he could join me on the bench as his train wasn’t due for half an hour. Drat it, I had just met him and he was leaving, I swear if it wasn’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all. I agreed and he sat down beside me. “Do you play that then? he asked. He must have thought I was one sandwich short of a picnic by the blank stare I gave him. Fool I thought, he means the guitar, what do I do now? If I say yes he’ll ask me to play something, if I say no he’ll think me a pretentious prat. So I said “My mate at work let me borrow it to try it out” Whew, saved by the lie. We exchanged names, he was called Philip, lovely name although I might have been a little biased. He could have been called Desmond and I wouldn’t have cared. Nothing against the name Desmond but you know what I mean, right? “So you’re leaving,” I said “New posting?” “No,” said he “I’ve got weekend leave and I’m going back home, I’m docked in Rosyth for the next few months” Oh glorious day, Rosyth was only over the Firth of Forth, I might get to see him again. “So we could maybe meet up when I get back” I heard him say “would that be okay?” Okay? It would be fantastic! I tried for suave and suffocated but what emerged was a high pitched “Yes please” not my finest hour. He gave me a telephone number I could reach him on when he got back, we chatted for a while, then his train arrived and he disappeared from my life, or so it felt.
The weekend seemed to pass so slowly, I had never wished for Monday to roll around as much, but here it was at last, now, would he be reachable on the number he’d given me? He was, we spoke, agreed to meet again on Friday at the same bench, how damned romantic is that? It was wonderful, he looked deeply into my eyes, told me I was beautiful and asked if he could take me to a hotel! What? I was not that sort of girl, much as I wished I was. I blushed deeply and whispered “No” thinking that would be the end of this wonderful adventure before it had even begun, but no, he merely smiled and said, “Right, shall we get something to eat then?” I felt wonderful, he understood me. We met again a few times then on our sixth date, on the Royal Mile, he dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him. He gave me a beautiful ring and I was lost, this was my man, I had never felt so loved, what could go wrong?

 

You’ve guessed it Dear Reader, three weeks before our wedding he said he couldn’t go through with it. Unbelievable! I think that you may well be able to understand how devastated I was, it crushed me, so I turned to drink to try and dull all feelings.
There was a problem in applying this remedy however, my parents were not going to let me drink myself into oblivion and I could not bear to be around people and hear how sorry they were for me. I didn’t need reminders of the nothing my life had become. In the Sixties in Scotland it was not the done thing for women to go into bars on their own or at least not “nice” women. I have never agreed with the double standards that were accepted then and to a degree still are. A guy could have multiple relationships and he was simply “a bit of a lad”. If a woman played the same game her name was very quickly changed to “Miss Mud”
I have since found out that my mindset is far more masculine than feminine, I truly enjoy the chase with pheromones and those “new guy” endorphins running through my brain, but let’s get back to my tale of woe. I was looking for a solution to my problem. This particular Friday night I had finished work and decided to go to Edinburgh, have a meal, and kill some time before going home. If I could digress for a moment, have you noticed how much of my life starts and stops on a Friday? Creepy! Onwards  I still lived with my parents and they didn’t know what to say or how to help me get over this gross betrayal so tended to be “hearty” and smile a lot. After I left the restaurant, having endured the looks of surprise on the other patrons’ faces due to me being on my own, I turned a corner and found myself on Rose Street. Now this area was considered to be quite risqué, just the vibe I wanted right then. Before I lost my nerve I stepped into the doorway of the first Hostelry I came to and hit pay dirt! It was noisy and a bit of a dive, perfect. I strolled over to the bar as if it was the norm for me and ordered a drink. I nearly ruined the whole “woman of the world” facade when the barman simply gave me my drink with no expression of surprise or censorious attention. I relaxed after it became obvious I was with my peeps, we were all misfits of one type or another.
Things slowly started to be fun again, every weekend I met up with “the gang” had a few drinks, okay, quite a few drinks and a great time. The times were different then, we were flamboyant in a way that good old staid Edinburgh could not handle. I’m afraid I was the one who started the “Be who you would be” craze. Each weekend we would decide on a theme for the following week. It could be “Your musical hero” or “From another country” I was doing it to escape being me for a while, I got the feeling the rest were too. By now I was friendly with the bouncers and they looked after me. If anyone got too close they were swiftly moved on after a wink from me. One huge bouncer in particular, was great. When the bar closed that first night I started to leave, I was weaving a little it has to be said. The large Bouncer offered me a lift home. You might think dear reader that I should have been more cautious and you would have been right, I was still very naive as the rest of this tale will prove, read on!
We got into his car and he asked if I would mind stopping at his place first. It seems he had something he wanted to show me. When we arrived at his flat and stepped inside he told me to follow him into his bedroom and you’ve guessed it, I followed. He stopped in front of a huge wardrobe and opened both of the doors. To my utter amazement, there was no back to it, the wall behind it had been knocked down and we stepped into a small room filled to the brim with boxes and boxes of cheap booze. I must have looked suitably impressed because Bill (yes I know, Bill the Bouncer, how do I have the nerve?) asked what I would like to drink. Well, Vodka was my tipple de jour and so he poured me a huge glass full and a little lemonade. I didn’t ask any questions about the oceans of hard liquor secreted behind the wardrobe, it was pretty self -explanatory really and truthfully I cared not one jot. We had a couple more drinks then Bill drove me home. We were just friends and it was a comfortable time for me, I didn’t want anything more right then.
A few more weeks passed then one evening I got to the bar to find that Bill was not working that night. By this time I was a fixture and no one bothered me much, so I relaxed into another night with the nutty denizens of the dark waters of Rose Street. Closing time arrived far too quickly, but as I wandered over to the exit another of the bouncers asked if I needed a lift as Bill wasn’t around. I demurred, I only vaguely knew the chap but he said Bill would not be happy if he let me go off on my own. Funnily enough, I ignored the warning bells yet again, but I suppose I was a little drunk, okay, a lot drunk, so I accepted the offer.
I lived outside Edinburgh amidst hills and fields, pretty but empty for the most part. I had given Jim directions but he drove passed the houses and on into the countryside which was as dark as Hades. I said he had missed the turning for my house which he ignored and a couple of minutes later he stopped the car. His first words to me were “Get into the back seat” I decided not to go for the funny retort of “I want to sit in the front with you” because he was not smiling. I simply said “No” He then took a huge knife out of the glove compartment and said “Move or I’ll use this,” I had been bullied as a child and that and the recent hurt I’d experienced might be the reason I said “I’m never going to get in the back seat, so you’ll have to use that knife mate” The look on his face, both gleeful and full of lust really scared me as he replied “I’m not kidding you know, you better do what I say”
I was in serious trouble and my frightened brain scrabbled franticly to find a way out. Then I just started to talk as casually as I could given that large parts of my so far very short life were flashing in front of me. I read a lot and I vaguely remembered an article about this kind of situation and the advice was “If you can, make your attacker see you as a person, not just an object” So I talked to him. I started with “You don’t seem like the kind of guy who would need to pull a knife on a girl to get her attention” I thought I may have gone in too strong because he obviously was the kind of guy who needed a knife. Not so, it seemed that the Ego of the man was so huge he simply accepted my remark as his due. “Well no” he started to say but I didn’t want him to examine what I had said too closely so I continued with “It looks to me that you work out too” Not true but hey, life on the line here. He said “Yes I do, I go to a Boxing gym in Gorgie” (an area of Edinburgh) “Well,” I said, “that’s so weird, a mate of mine at work teaches at that gym, his name is Rob, do you know him?” To my relief, he said “Yes, we spar together” Now this was going to be the tricky bit, he could react in two ways to my next comment, but I had to try. “What do you think Rob would say if he could see us now? I don’t think he would understand, do you? Maybe we should get going, I’m tired, could you drop me off at home please?”
I stealthy coiled myself up, ready to kick out with both feet if he moved towards me, but to my amazement, he agreed! “Yea, let’s go, it’s late and I’ve got gym tomorrow” I almost sobbed in reaction to this but managed not to. He put the knife back into the glove compartment and started the car engine. It seemed to take an age to get to my house. The car came to a stop and I jumped out ready to sprint to my gate. To my utter astonishment, he rolled down the window and said “Would you like to go out for a drink sometime?” I am sorry to say my baser instincts came to the fore and before you could say “bite me” I had landed a vicious punch straight in his face. I ran for home then, strolled passed my parents striving to look normal, got to my bedroom and collapsed, sobbing.
You might think it odd that I didn’t tell my parents or reported it to the Police, but taking my parents first, they would have grounded me until I was twenty-five and the Police would have wanted pesky things like facts, his full name, address, type of car, etc. none of which I could give ’em. So I took what I considered to be the best action, I told Bill and the others at the bar what had happened and suffice to say I didn’t see Jim again. A week or so afterward at work I casually asked Rob if he’d seen much of Jim lately. He said that he had not and asked how I knew him. Dam, I should have thought it through first. Trying to be casual I said “A friend of a friend said he might know where to get cheap booze is all” “Oh yes,” said Rob “I’d heard that too but I don’t know where he is right now, sorry” “Not to worry,” I said and simply walked away.

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Annihilating Andy

Many many many years ago, yes, I am that old, I started work as an Electronics Tester. I was fifteen and a bit and the only girl in a department of men. I had my rubber stamp, number 1062. It was my first job and I enjoyed every aspect of it, except one, more of that later. At first, because I was so young I could not be insured to work on the big stuff e.g.: The ISIS Gyro (Integrated Sight and Interceptor System) I think I’ll be safe mentioning it now, although I did have to sign the Secrets Act when I first started. I got very excited, then I discovered the Tea Lady had also signed it. Not so much James Bond, more Brooke Bond!

I was delegated to checking the outer casings when the circuit boards had been soldered in place. I feel incredibly privileged that in the space of my working life I’ve witnessed so much innovation. It started with resistors, I then had to learn the Resistor Colour Code which identifies a value and tolerance of 4 band wire wound resistors. Then there were diodes, capacitors, etc. From there, when my children were grown I had a job testing Semiconductors with NEC. We come to the present time when the world itself is in the palm of our hands, truly amazing.

Back to the much younger me. This was my first job and I felt the full weight of that responsibility heavy on my shoulders.

Simply put, I was given an ammeter, and told to spot problems with the wiring. One lead was clipped on to the metal of the casing. I pushed a Red button then touched the pointer on the other lead onto the circuit board. If all was well there would be no reaction. Should there be a short circuit the meter would slam over into the Red. Heady stuff!

My Dad worked with the same company and he had warned me about the practical jokes I could expect. Being sent to the storeroom for a long stand, or a left-handed screwdriver were favorites. My crowd excelled themselves though. I was given a chair at a long wooden bench, told to get on with it, and to be careful not to touch the metal casing while I was pressing the button on the meter. If I did I would get an electric shock, low amperage but still quite shocking. Do you see what I did there? As a small aside, I have been asked by my entire family not to use that phrase ever again. It seems they spent a very long time trying to figure out what I did do. When they couldn’t, they got so exasperated they called each other up to complain and to get help with the puzzle. It seems I have lost them a lot of time they won’t ever get back.

So to my debut as a serious tester. I put the clip on the casing, pressed the button, and very carefully touched the pointer to the circuit board. Ouch! An electric shock coursed up my arm. Never daunted I pressed the button, contorted my arm up and over the casing and again, ouch. I put that casing to one side, attempting to be casual and not whimper. I grabbed another from the pile beside me and tried again. Ouch. I got another casing, then another, getting more painful. I looked along the bench to see four of my fellow workers helpless with laughter. Then I noticed a meter with the clip attached to the thick metal strip which edged the bench and one of the guys holding the pointer. You’ve got it, every time I pushed the button so did he, sending a current down the metal that I was leaning on. Devilish eh? Well, we all had a good laugh at that, way to get the newbie. Perhaps I should say they laughed while I plotted.

I found out who’s evil plan it was, the chap was called Andy and he did not like me. From that very first day, he was on my case. He had no power over me but obviously, he enjoyed tormenting me. He checked up on when I clocked in, how long I took for my tea and lunch breaks. Then at every opportunity, he would shout “Stop wasting time chatting, try doing some work for a change” The last straw was one day when he walked past me, grabbed the two leads that I was holding, and yanked them out of my hand. These leads had two big metal hooks that attached them to the ammeter. When he pulled them one hooked into my skin between my thumb and first finger and ripped straight through the flesh. The pain was intense and there was blood everywhere. He just laughed and said “Stop wasting time chatting” then walked away. The other guys were disgusted and told me to report him. I smiled and said “No. I have a far better way of getting him back at his own game, leave it to me” I wouldn’t say another word and I let a few days go by to make him think I was beaten.

At home, I had a costume jewelry ring that had a large cluster of stones around a bigger central one. I carefully took all the stones out, opened up the metal mounts, and I was all set for “Operation Annihilate Andy” After a week had passed I took the ring into work with me. Knowing that Andy would be watching me I talked to each of my fellow workers throughout the morning, careful to stay far enough away from Andy that he could not hear what I was saying. Each time I walked up to one of them I held out my hand and said “Take my hand and shake it, I will smile and seem to tell you something and all you have to do is look surprised, then laugh and say, quite loudly “You have got that spot on, how did you know?” I repeated this over twenty times and the guys told me Andy was almost apoplectic, he was getting red-faced and sweaty with temper. He shouted once more “Stop wasting company time, get back to work” Now was my moment.

I ambled closer to him and he said, as I knew he would “What are you wasting time doing now? Nothing to do with work I bet” I replied “I read an article about telling someone’s personality just by shaking their hand. Do you want me to analyze you?” “Load of rubbish,” says he predictably. Then, hook, line, and sinker, “Go on then, let’s see how wrong you can be” By this time I had the ring on my middle finger, just the band showing, the metal mounts where hidden inside my palm. He grabbed my hand as tightly as he could, (we knew he would do that didn’t we?) I grabbed his hand just as tightly and pulled free. It was nothing really, the metal mounts sank into his palm and scratched him a little. His high pitched shrieks were music to my ears though and the laughter from my workmates added to his embarrassment. He was so angry at this humiliation I thought he might lash out. He stepped up close to me and I could hear the others muttering behind me. They moved as one towards us. I put up a hand, looked right into the face of my archnemesis and said “I told you the test worked, your main personality trait is you are very bad-tempered” There was even more laughter at this and all Andy could do was walk away. Like any bully, once shown the error of his ways, he became almost bearable after that. If it looked at any time as though he was reverting to type all I had to do was put out my hand

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WAY BACK WHEN

Youth is wasted on the young, I think we’d all agree,

all that energy and resilience aimed at being cool.

Then there’s the heady endorphins of that first love,

making you giddy, silly, on fire, a fool.

 

Remember waking up each day, ready to attack it,

Nothing was off-limits, all was accessible.

Memories to be made, feelings to explore

anything and everything was possible.

 

Fast forward to the present, you are sensible and staid,

not for you the all-night parties, drugs and drink.

But every cell within your body needs to live again,

or become too insensible to think.

 

I do not like that last line, so any help would be appreciated

answers on a postcard to “Mrs. Trellis of North Wales”

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EYES DOWN

It was the mid-Seventies and both my daughters were in school. I decided it was time to find some part-time employment. I hadn’t worked for over eight years so I hatched a cunning plan. I would look for a job that I had zero chance of getting. This would mean that I wouldn’t be nervous and it would allow me to hone my interview skills. Scouring the papers (no Internet) I happened upon the perfect prospect, a part-time Bingo Caller, not far from where I lived in Edinburgh. I phoned and arranged to meet the Manager that evening at Seven pm. Short notice of course but remember, no chance, no nerves.

I walked into quite a plush foyer and was taken to the manager’s office. What followed was the weirdest interview ever. The Manager’s name was George and his first question was fairly obvious “Have you any experience as a Caller?” to which I replied “No, but I understand the premise” “I see” said George “Can I say you look familiar, have we have met before?” I said I didn’t think so. He then said “Do you sing at all?” I said, now looking worried, “Only in the bath, but does that mean I would be expected to sing out the numbers?” “No, not at all, I thought I might have spotted you doing the circuit. Okay, do you look like somebody?” “Only my mother, but you won’t have met her either” This was fast becoming farcical but thankfully George decided we should move things along so we walked upstairs to the Bingo Hall, now called The Auditorium.

It looked nothing like I had imagined, there were huge TV monitors all over. Then I tried to spot that machine with the tube where the balls appeared. All I could see was a raised dais complete with a very large screen and a mike. My heart sank, mostly because I could see in the far distance a group of Cleaning Service operatives having a Tea Break. I didn’t want an audience for what was undoubtedly going to be a fiasco. Then I remembered, no chance, no nerves! I straighten, took a deep breath and squeaked “Do I stand up there?” “Yes” replied George “All you have to do is read the numbers out clearly when they appear on your screen” That didn’t sound too daunting, so we began. I delved deep to retrieve the little knowledge I had of playing Bingo and heard myself saying, on one long breath “All the fat ladies, clickety-click, three little ducks quack quack quack, on its own, number eleven, big fat hen, number ten.” I stopped, thinking, here it comes, the “we’ll be in touch” gentle let down.

But no, to my utter astonishment he was enthusiastic over my pitiful performance. What the cluck? Was the man deranged? “Just what we need” he gushed “we’ve never had a lady Caller before and I have to say your clear cut accent is a huge plus.” I was not expecting that. Don’t tell me I thought, he’s going to offer me the position. I frantically tried to think of excuses for why it was not for me. Then he surprised me again. “This was going to be a part-time position but I think you would be perfect to replace our resident full-time guy. He is getting a mite careless and a little too fond of an afternoon libation. What do you think?” What did I think? I thought I’d better get out of there quickly. I muttered something about having to discuss this development with my husband and scuttled away.

When I told Alan all about the evening’s debacle he nearly choked with laughter. “It could only happen to you” he spluttered “you know how shy you are, what made you think you would be able to stand up in front of hundreds of strangers? “I didn’t think I would get offered the job” I wailed. I finally persuaded him to phone George the next day for me and tell him that due to a back injury I was unable to stand for very long and had to decline his offer. I have just about managed to stop blushing when I think of the events of that night but it has left me with an irrational fear of numbered balls

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The driving rain was beating against the small window of my retreat near Loch Achilty in the Highlands as if trying to gain entry. That was not just a figure of speech. The countryside all around me was basking in the warmth of Summer but the Norse God of rain and sun was aiming this storm directly over my cottage. Managing to upset the powerful God Freyr had been easy. Firstly, write an article on Norse mythology disparaging the ancient beliefs and secondly compound the error by decrying the powers of Freyr’s father, the Sea God Njord.

Who could have known that not only did the Gods walk with us but they also read Wikipedia? The first time I realised there might be a problem was yesterday. When I left home I was drenched by a heavy rain shower that then followed me along the street but effected no-one else. When passers-by started to take their phones out and aimed them at me getting back home became a priority. After an hour or so, I poked my head out of the door, and hey presto, raining. Still annoyed then.

I decided to pack, book a ticket to Strathpeffer, call a taxi to Waverley Train Station and just run. It started to become quite expensive when the train arrived at my destination though. I took a taxi to the local shop from Strathpeffer station, then asked the driver to wait while I bought provisions. It was a very short distance from the taxi to the shop doorway, fortunately. The speed I ran at must have made me look like a maniac. It was fast enough to ensure only a few drops of rain hit the pavement, luckily. I loaded the spoils into the taxi, lots of bread, pate, cheese, and wine, basic survival rations. Then there was the drive up the hills to the cottage to clock up on the meter. It was worth it though. The driver pulled up under the overhanging porch so that no explanation about a personal rainstorm was necessary.

First things first, a fire was built, very satisfying, then a meal of sorts was eaten. It’s amazing how fear affects people. Some would have found it impossible to force themselves to swallow even a morsel, I on the other hand ate like a condemned person. Not the best simile under the circumstances but apt, very apt. It may have helped that the food was accompanied by vast quantities of wine. After stumbling into bed the morning found me as overcast as the sky above me remained. Oh great.

A simple breakfast of two Paracetamol (other tablets are also available) was washed down with a refreshing glass or three of pure rainwater. No need to move, an arm out the window sufficed to collect the necessary liquid. Still annoyed it seemed. Now, how was this problem going to be resolved? Was it possible to go back to the article on Wikipedia and simply erase it? It could be done but would it be enough to placate an angry God? He was probably embarrassed that his mates might have read said article. They would be waiting to see what terrible vengeance Freyr was going to mete out. Possibly a shower of rain would seem a little inadequate to most of them. The worry now was how bent on revenge would Freyr be and how much angrier would my running away have made him?

Just as I am reaching for the laptop there’s a loud knock on the door. No-one should know about this place, it had been left to me by my ancient Auntie Morag. She had been a recluse for years and had not encourage visitors. There was one person, Deity, who would have had no problem locating my whereabouts of course. Heaving a huge sigh at the inevitability of the trouble ahead I reluctantly open the door. Just as expected a huge heavily bearded figure looms over me, blocking out the sky. Amusingly it wasn’t only the size of the man/God doing the blocking, mostly it was the huge Tartan umbrella being held by the man/ God himself. I didn’t think that snorting with laughter would be the best way to go though. Forcing an expression I hope will convey abject contrition I am taken aback to hear a grunted “Damnation, you’re a woman” followed by “Invite me in would you, it’s raining out here”

Stepping back, a frigid frisson of fear causes me to tremble. It isn’t so amusing when confronted by the reality, not the imagined. Freyr, seeing my reaction, frowns. “Don’t go fainting will you?” he says “I am angry but I won’t harm you. Consider yourself lucky you’re a female” What? No way. I almost tell him he can’t differentiate between men and women like that anymore. Then sheer self-preservation stops me in time. Better to be patronized than pulverized. He strides into the cottage, almost knocking over a spindly little table and sits on the couch. His sheer size makes it look like an armchair. He glances around the room then says, in a deep and very attractive voice, unfortunately laced with sarcasm “Nice place you’ve got” Realising that this is not the time to go all “Homes and Gardens” about Auntie’s taste in décor, I shrug. “My my, a woman who knows her place, refreshing,” Freyr says. “It is a great pity you didn’t apply that ethos to the written word too” Now that was too much, it was impossible not to speak up in defence of women everywhere, wasn’t it? Perhaps, I thought, but looking out for one woman might be the best plan for the moment.

How to make things right? Pander to the massive ego that very probably lurks beneath the trendy tailored suit? I surprise myself by thinking how much more a cloak, boots and a laced up gilet would suite this brute of a man. “Keep your mind on getting out of this in one piece” is my next thought. Time to pander. I explain in as soft and tremulous a tone as I can muster how contrite I am, it had been a moment of madness, a pitiful attempt to curry favour with a much-admired college professor. I glance up to see a look of approbation where an angry frown had been before. “Hullo, that looks promising” I think. All hopes are dashed very quickly when Freyr mutters “Spare me the Am Dram moment, please” My, he had integrated quickly, possibly more Eighties than Noughties, but kudos none the less.

His next words are so unexpected my legs give way and I drop, luckily there is a chair behind me. Dignity intact the next thing is to try and understand what has just been said. I remember hearing a few things through the ringing in my ears. Rain, written apology, dinner, what? Dinner? Surely not? No, no, no, as an emancipated woman I would perhaps apologise, erase the offending article obviously, but sacrifice myself to this person/God in the guise of a dinner date, never.
Well, maybe not never. Remember, a cloak, boots and a laced up gilet!

FREYR

Aside