Tuesday, 21 June 2016


A quick break. Just nip out the back for a quick cigarette. No, no. He is waiting in the hallway, looking for staff. Go to him, to the man who did not come in time, The Next of Kin, who now is next himself.

“I’ve come to pick up Christine’s things. If you could give me a hand to the car, that would be great,” he said.

“Of course,” she said, unlocking the side door, being wary of any hopeful escapees. They took the boxes quickly. There were not many. They put them into the boot.

She tried to make small talk. “Have you come far?” “Oh no, just from Surrey. Not too far.”
“Well I hope the journey back is ok. Would you like a cup of tea before you go?” He rearranged something in the boot. “No, no thank you. I must be off.” 

She searched for something to say. “I haven’t worked here for long. Did Christine live here for long?” What a terrible question she thought, but she did not have the correct words and he did not come and he is only from Surrey. He said vaguely, “I think about two years.” It was three, she knew it was three, but she nodded; one nod of the head, accessory to his ignorance. He shut the boot of the car, the three boxes and the television packed neatly inside.

He turned to her. “Yes, about two years. I wonder what the statistics are on how long people survive in these places?” She shook her head, uncertain. She wondered how he could ask of statistics when all that was left of his mother was in the boot of his car? 

Christine had asked for him in those long dreadful nights but he did not come for her, for his mother; the statistic.

He thanked her for her help and he drove away. She locked the side door and went into the empty room, Christine’s room. He had left the little picture of the cat that she had cut out and stuck on the door but he had taken the television. Perhaps he cracked and it had all spilled out on the way home. Perhaps he found God waiting for him in a layby down the road; after all, he needed a new parent as all that was left of his own was packed neatly into three boxes in the boot of his car.

Nothing left but the end of the day.

The trees have become greener overnight and it is suddenly summer today. People in sandals. The orchards are lined up, ready to do business. I feel ok, lying on the floor watching the sea gulls falling silently on the breeze. Keep watching the sky until it turns the deepest blue, until the night comes. 

A smile shared with a friend, freckles on a smiling face that you have never known there before, silhouettes playing on the shoreline, boys flying a kite on the sand, open arms, out-stretched hands. 

The trees grew back overnight and I was sure it was winter yesterday. The pointing man on the bench, flanked by two bald friends, watching the sun fall down behind the sea. Waves of light rolled in gently on the water. The mother taking the child’s hand as they go down the steps. Nothing left but the end of the day.

Green jumper and red jumper sit huddled together, knees up, sifting sand. They stay long after the sun has gone, smoking cigarettes and putting off tomorrow. I hope they stay. I think that they are young and I think that they are in love and I know I will feel lonelier when they are gone. 

I will keep the window open tonight so that I can hear the sea because it is mine tonight. I will get a few drunks blowing in on the breeze later, but I will stomach it because the sea is mine tonight.

When I go to work in the morning, when I reach the road that turns in towards the station, I will turn around to say goodbye to the sea. “Wait for me, I will come back later,” I will tell it as if it is a loved one. And I will return to it at the end of every day.

Sunday, 15 February 2015


This is the beginning of a story that will get longer...maybe a Chapter One...

Everything had stopped moving in the morning, she thought. She had nowhere to go, nowhere to be, no paths to tread and there wasn't anyone to tell, no delivery to be made in thought or word, no one to give it all to.

She waited for him to leave. He slept loudly. She tried to wake him without it seeming deliberate - putting the radio on, fidgeting, sighing melodramatically, coughing, making tea loudly and then, when all else failed, jabbing him in the ribs and saying, "Sorry, but it's getting late and I need to get on."

He blinked at her, not knowing her face, where he was or what the correct etiquette might be at such times. Clothes on and out, he surmised. After all, she was not his wife.

He was not her husband but her husband would return soon, eyes filled with nothing and briefcase full of paper deals. He would be jet-lagged when he returned and she would make him his favourite drink with added sleeping tablets, listen to his edited summary of his trip and then take his daughter and pregnant maid and drive six-hundred miles away from him.

The new place was all rugged coast, tumble-down house, beautiful and wild; a place for her girl to grow and be free. A place where he would never come.

She watched him get in the taxi. "Sorry", he had said as he left; his parting gift an apology, an admittance of wrong-doing, of regret. Her one night of desire in six years, driven away sat beside an apology in a taxi, gone and gone and gone.  Change the sheets and get the sleeping tablets. Where is Leila?

Leila is praying, eyes tight shut, "Please God, make sure my child is healthy and happy and safe. I am not sure I believe in you any more, Lord, so please step up and do the right thing. Step up and be a father to my child."


You told me that you’d called the wine shop down the road and said to the man,
“I’m in love with the woman who lives down the road from you, round the corner. Would you take a bottle of champagne to her for me?”
“How much do you love her?” asked the man.
“I love her ten-fold for each step you will walk down the road to her door.”
Pause. “Okay.”

So now it sits on the kitchen worktop because I don’t know who to share it with;
Because you are shared.

I daren’t open it because the pressure might just blow the roof off
And bring the walls tumbling down.
And then everyone would know that we love each other ten-fold.

Should I fold now? Or do we keep building this paper house?

How long until a whisper brings us tumbling down?


My other half’s other half doesn't know that my other half has another other half. 
Which means he has a total of one and a half.
But I think I have maybe just a half of one of his halves, which makes him my other quarter, 
But mostly I am diminished myself, so I make up about a quarter too, 
Which leaves me with a half, whilst he’s got three halves. 
How much does my other quarter’s other half have then?

I'm fucked if I know.

But I do know something: these fractions aren't adding up.

Monday, 15 September 2014


Ships loiter along on the horizon, in the hazy pink, lazy pink tired hot day. Windmills stand stock-still out at sea, all spent and nothing doing, now that the day is closing its eyes. Pier broken off, burnt remnants sitting it out, stubborn dead wood waiting offshore to be invited back home. Silhouettes dotted along the shore claiming the sky as their own, holding the colours and air between outstretched arms. Headlights swing carelessly around the headland across the bay, behind the once-grand crescent hotel where the cracks creep up the walls, ready to bring it all down. Night time brings the wind-breaks down and the crying babies are taken home after wailing for an hour past their bed-time while mum and dad drink tins on the benches overlooking the sea, because the sea belongs to them, if only for this moment. Teenagers strut the sand, lighting cigarettes and disposable barbecues, playing tinny music on their phones which hold a thousand posed grinning photographs that show how happy and tanned they have been today. Instant memories to prove the day’s worth. Swear words strewn across the sand along with the trail of empty cider cans, marking a path from happy beginnings to sorrowful angry heated ends. Storms are coming and we can feel it on our skin. Electric heat lifts hairs on backs of necks as fingers tentatively lift edges of linen and cotton tumbles to the floor in folds. Lazy crescent moon hardly lifts above the horizon and recedes across the harbour, deepening from gold to red as it disappears after only visiting for an hour or two. Heat and electricity on our skin, bringing hands together and lips begin the long night’s gentle work, making tapestries of touch and skin. 


We had been out having some glasses of wine, when rounding the corner, outside the museum, we saw him. It took a moment for the scene to become clear because my glasses were in my bag and the contents of the other glasses were in me, but  there he was, hunched over, down near the peddles of my bicycle, sawing off the lock with a hack-saw.

“Hey!” I called out, “HEY! That’s my bike!” I began to run towards him and he scrambled to his feet, reaching to pick up his rucksack which was on the ground nearby, but he fumbled and I was there, right there in-front of him, an incredulous look upon my face, whilst he looked at me, a bit dismayed and put out.

“What are you doing?!” I said, incredulously, “That’s my bike!” He looked down at the ground and shuffled his feet.

“I’m sorry,” he said. He was probably in his early twenties. His hair looked unwashed and he was somewhat, slightly dazed. “Are you sure that’s your bike?” He looked at me, hopefully.

“YES! Of course I’m sure! What are you talking about?” I winced with disbelief at his disbelief. I went to the bike and took out my keys. I undid the lock, just to prove it.

“Oh. It is yours then.” He said, disappointed.

Yes! It IS my bike! I can’t believe you were trying to steal my bike! WHY?! Look at it!” We all looked at my bike. A white Raleigh bike, thirty years old (at least); a grandma’s bike with a basket and some rust attached.

“Ah nah; that’s a lovely bike,” he nodded at it, defensively.

“Well I know it’s a lovely bike, but it’s my lovely bike, not your lovely bike! Why don’t you go and steal one with gears or something? No, how about this; don’t steal anyone’s bike!” More pitiful shuffling of feet.

I leaned in towards him and brought my voice down to a menacing whisper. “Me and this bike have been together a long time and if, if you had stolen it, I would have hunted you down, and killed you”. Briony laughed. “I would have! And I will if you ever try that again!”

“I’m really sorry, look I really am. I feel really bad about it now.”

“Oh, he feels really bad about it now, so that’s ok! How would you feel? If someone stole your bike?”

“I’d be really upset. I mean, I’ve had my bike stolen; five times!” he said, “That’s why I’m trying to get another one.”

“Yes, but I didn’t steal any of your five bikes! I can’t believe it, I can’t believe you tried to steal my bike.” I shook my head and stared at him. “Tell me why I shouldn’t phone the police?”

“Ah nah, please don’t do that. Please.” He looked hurt and resorted to shuffling his feet again. Briony looked at him sympathetically. I started to feel sorry for him, amidst the annoyance.

“Look, you’re gonna need a new lock; that one’s nearly gone through.”

 “Oh thank you for your advice! And whose fault is that, that I need a new lock?”

“What you want to do is get one of them ‘D’ locks; they’re much better.”

“Oh ok, are they the best then? I mean you’d have trouble getting into one of them?” He nodded. I made a note to buy one of those next time.  “So what are you going to do, hmm? To make up for the fact you ruined my lock? What have you got? What are you going to give me? Give me the money for a new lock and we’ll call it square.”

“I haven’t got any money.”

I looked him up and down. Probably not, but he must have something.

“Ok, give me a joint. I bet you’ve got a joint.” I didn’t even smoke joints any more, but he looked stoned and my wine-induced-wisdom was telling me this was the best deal possible. Suddenly, I wanted a joint.

“I haven’t got any,” he did the pathetic eyes again and started to root around through his bag. He pulled out a half-consumed bottle of cheap cider. I winced. Briony reached out to take it.
“NO!” I stopped her, feeling that a second-hand bottle of White Lightening was not a good deal. 

“Right, you can buy me a new lock. Give me your address or your phone number,” I demanded.

He shuffled again. “....O..kay...How about you give me your number? I’ll get a lock and I will ring you.”

“...O...kay.” I said and scribbled the number down.  He wasn’t evil, he was just hopeless. I would put my faith in humanity and I would trust his word. Yes, he was being honest, I had faith.

That was the last time that a man asked for my telephone number. And guess what? He didn’t call.