Forbidden Love

I always knew things would be difficult, but never understood the extent to which family and friends would go to ruin something they didn’t understand, or even try to understand.

Five years ago, Valentine’s Day as per usual I had no date and neither did Janine so we decided we’d go out together and ignore all the hype of the day for lovers. Janine had even suggested we become lesbian lovers, which I know was a joke as she likes the attributes of men as much as I do.

Anyway, we caught the bus into town and on arriving at our favourite bar took a table near the window and ordered drinks. The waiter asked if we were waiting on our dates, and just to throw him off and be a bit naughty we told him we were there with each other, and not for anyone else. He looked back and forth between us clearly wondering if we were winding him up or not, then went off to the bar to bring back our drinks.

Sitting there watching the happy couples arrive for their night of loving togetherness I guess I may have been a bit cynical, but all that was soon to change.

We had booked ourselves a table in an Indian restaurant that had recently opened and once we had finished our drinks we threw our coats back on and sauntered down the street arm in arm looking forward to a good curry, and with a bit of luck some tasty bhajis.

On the way we had to run the gauntlet through a group of lads who suggested they could be our dates for the night, but Janine told they where to go in no uncertain terms eliciting an explosion of insults and questions about our sexuality. Janine simply told them to go home as their mummies were calling. She gave them the two fingers and amid more insults and catcalls we went on our way.

When we arrived at the restaurant it was pretty empty as we’d booked an early table planning to go out to a club or two afterwards. The maître d’ / host showed us to a table and told us our waiter would be with us shortly to take our order and look after us.  He set menus down on the table and told us he hoped we would have a good night.

Soon after we had settled and picked up the menus the waiter appeared at our table. We were both engrossed in the menu, which was quite extensive, and neither of us looked up until he asked what we would like to drink. When I did look up I looked directly into the most beautiful of faces that almost took my breath away. And yes, I know what a cliché that is, but that is what I felt at the time.  He had the deepest soulful brown eyes, which were framed with long lashes, always a killer for me. He had a stubbly half beard and when he smiled at me his teeth shone white.  I stuttered and then prompted by Janine ordered a red wine as she had.

Once he had left the table Janine commented. “Well he’s a looker, for sure, and from the way that you looked at each other I’d say you deffo fancied the pants off each other.”

“He sure is good looking,” I replied. “But can you image my family’s reaction if I took him home?” I had already imagined what my father would say.

“Bugger them. If you both fancy each other then I say you should go for it. Shall I get his number for you?” I wasn’t sure if Janine was teasing or not, it was the kind of thing she would do.

“Leave it out, I’m a big girl and if I want his number I’ll ask for it, anyway he’s probably gay or in an arranged marriage already:” I told her.

“Wow, who is being a racist?” Janine asked.

“Shit, I didn’t mean, but, oh…” I spluttered as I internally appraised my thinking.  “Ok, sorry. I guess that was a bit of a stereotype.”

“Just a bit,” Janine raised her glass to mine, “But one we can forgive and forget,” she added, as the waiter brought our drinks back to the table.

Setting our drinks down he asked if we were ready and, when we said we were, he took our order, making a note on his little techno-pad as we told him what we wanted. Each time I caught his eyes I felt a shiver.

“Not married; no ring on any of his fingers,” Janine commented once he’d gone off to the kitchen.

“Can’t say I was looking,” I lied.

“Too busy making gooey eyes at each other,” Janine laughed.

When the waiter returned with some poppadums and dips Janine brazenly asked his name. “Ismael” was his shy reply.  Janine simply nodded.

“Ismael,” she said after he’d gone. “Easy enough, but are you going to be?” she asked. “And don’t be coy I know you’ve been getting a good look at the rear view each time he’s walked away.

“You are incorrigible,” I told her cracking a poppadum in half, dipping it into the hot spice. “But yes, of course I have.”

Ismael was extra attentive during the meal, but after leaving the bill returned to the kitchen without further comment.

“Well that’s that then,” I said, our non-existent relationship was already over.

“Not quite,” Janine said handing me the card for the restaurant that Ismael had left with the bill. “Turn it over,” she told me.

Turning the card over I saw Ismael had written his name and telephone number on it, with just two words. “Call me.”

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Four

Four years ago today Tony was taken from me. The years have flown by while days and nights have, at times, felt like eternity.
This year the last few weeks have been even more difficult as I have been nursing one of our kids who was diagnosed with a tumour. The echoes back to what we went through in 2016 have been unbearable at times and I have hit rock bottom again and again.
Huge thanks to everyone that continues to care and support me.

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Black and White

Gregor sat and cracked his knuckles, something his mother always hated. He wondered if he was ready. His nerves resurfaced with a vengeance. He grabbed the edge of the stool and breathed like his therapist had shown him. Gradually the anxiety lessened.  Although he felt somewhat better he was still plagued by the doubts his father had instilled in him at a very young age. ‘You’ll never amount to anything’, ‘Why can’t you be more like your brother?’ ‘ Hahaha, you famous?’ were just some of the memories of the put-downs that he remembered at that moment.

He took a moment to search out his mother’s face. He found her, smiling expectantly. She nodded and gave him the thumbs up. His Nana waved and nodded in encouragement too.

‘OK, let’s do this,’ Gregor thought as he stretched and let his fingers gently settle on the piano keys. Closing his eyes he forgot the panel watching him, he forgot his mum and Nana on the sidelines, and even forgot his father, as the music entered his being and poured out through his fingers.

For the next three and a half minutes Gregor wasn’t the scared young man, the ‘waste of space’, he was the music and nothing else. He swaying in time with the music in his head as his fingers found their way up and down the keys without any conscious thought. This was Gregor’s world. This is where he wanted to exist forever.

As the rhythm slowed and he came to the end of his piece he sat back from the keys and stared at them waiting for any reaction in he room.

Once again he searched out his mother. She was silently clapping, as was his Nana. At least he had pleased them. That was always his standard.  He remembered the first time that he had played one of his pieces for them and how surprised they had been at his talent to both write and perform such splendour.

“Gregor,” the voice of the head of the panel woke Gregor out of his reverie.

“Sir,” Gregor replied.

“Mr Warner will do,” the head of the panel told him smiling.  “That was something incredible, young man,” he added.

For just a moment Gregor wasn’t sure he had heard right, “Incredible good or incredible bad?” he asked.

One of the other panellists laughed.

‘Bad,’ Gregor thought, ‘I’ve fluffed my only chance.’

“Incredibly good,” Mr Warner said quashing Gregor’s fears. “You are a very talented musician and we would be more than happy to accept you to the college of music. Young man I don’t believe you know just how good you are. I’ve looked across at the notes of all my fellow panellists here and the comments they have written  range from amazing to wonderful with everything in between. If you will accept our offer we can start the process of enrolment straight away. You are truly going to be an asset.”

“I, I…” Gregor stammered only seeing the black and white of the piano keys through the tears that were welling up.

His mum and Nana rushed in and hugged him. “You did it,” they both said over and over. They too were crying.

“I did it,” Gregor finally said standing up to take Mr Warner’s proffered hand.

“You smashed it, I think you young people say,” Mr Warner said shaking Gregor’s hand vigorously. “Welcome.”

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Happy New…

Feeling deflated and left out Barry moved back to the corner as the raucous countdown began.

“Ten,” the crowd shouted, ‘more years of solitude,’ thought Barry.

“Nine,” the crowd roared, ‘more pints and I won’t notice,’ Barry mused.

“Eight,” the crowd was even louder, ‘inches would do fine’ Barry smiled this time.

“Seven,” laughter and glasses clinking, ‘would do too,’ Barry compromised.

“Six” the crowd were almost halfway through, but this time Barry’s thoughts were interrupted as someone tapped him on the shoulder. He spun round quickly to see who it was that had squeezed in behind him only to have a hand gently cover his eyes and a pair of full lips crush his.

For a second he worried it was the persistent blond that had been bugging him earlier. He had tried to camp it up to let her know he wasn’t and would never be interested no matter how far she leaned towards him revealing more and more of her ample assets. Finally he had pointed at his hand wriggling the wedding band that was still there. She had shrugged indicating that it didn’t matter to her so he had finally said told her, “I’m gay, you’re wasting your time.”

“We can all change,” she had replied licking her lips.

“Then I suggest you become a lesbian and we can become the best of friends,” Barry had told her. This had done the trick. She had pulled a face and moved on.

His momentary worry slipped away quickly as a rough tongue pushed its way between his teeth to explore his mouth and rough stubble rubbed against his chin. ‘Man, all man,’ Barry thought smelling the musky aftershave and gave in to the delicious stranger as the count reached one and finally the chimes began to welcome in a new decade.

Suddenly, the hand covering his eyes was taken away and Barry found himself looking into the piercing blue eyes of a face he knew.

The hand slipped lower down his body pulling him in close to this phantom kisser. He yielded and enjoyed the feel of the firm contours pushing against him.

As the chimes ended their lips separated “Happy New Year,” Barry whispered breathlessly. “I never…” He began but was prevented from continuing as a finger to his lips stopped him in his tracks.

“The time for explanations is later,” he was told by this gorgeous known stranger. The voice was a voice from his dreams.

Barry couldn’t believe what was happening. ‘Even if this is just one night…’ he thought as a firm hand slipped inside his shirt.

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Where you slept

First posted December 2013. Our boy has been gone over six years now, but the loss of him still tugs at my heart.

*****

Your basket lies empty now, a sad reminder of where you slept.

As I fall asleep each night I gaze at your place, now empty and wanting. Your blankets lie undisturbed, except for where Cuddy has sniffed around. Twice today she visited your basket and came away with a look on her face of sadness or confusion. She misses you too. My evenings are incomplete without our cuddle on the sofa. My mornings are the same without our shared walkies. Cuddy and I retrace our usual route but we both know something is missing.

When I wake in the morning the first thing I see is your bed. For a moment I don’t remember you have gone, then as my mind and my sight clear I see the empty space and my heart lurches again.

I have such beautiful memories of our tender moments, times when you slept in my arms in the summer sunshine or on the sofa during a winter’s afternoon. memories of the wild times when you ran like a crazy creature chasing things that weren’t there, or that I couldn’t see, chasing leaves in autumn, chasing, running, chasing.

The cats sometimes use your bed, but not at night, yet. It was always your place and they still know and respect that.

My wonderful man you will be forever in my heart, and your presence will always be in our home. I must trust that you are no longer in any pain, I must trust that you have gone to a better place, for anything else would be too wrong.

Xali, you are my star, a wondrous creature that brought us so much yet wanted so little in return. For this and so much more I thank you.

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The secret

“It’s a secret,” he said.

“You can tell me,” she replied.

“Ah, but then it wouldn’t be a secret,” he told her.

TBC

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Cava Chronicles

This week my creative writing group announced the coming publication of our second book – The Cava Chronicles.

On the 26th January next year between 3pm and 7pm we will be holding our launch party at the place where we write- The Montroig Cafe in Sitges. Anyone who has read my book, Berwick Street to Barcelona, will know the colourful history I have with the building.

The team at the Montroig are incredibly supportive, both while we write there every other Friday, and with the launch party itself.

The book is make up of 26 chapters of themed short stories written either during our group meetings or by other group members who are unable to attend regularly. Much the same as our last book – A Working Title.

I’ll add more details soon including a link to the site at which you can buy the book.

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Friday 13th

Waking up Mark knew the date was significant, Friday the thirteenth, unlucky for some, but in this case it was to be unlucky for many, as he soon found out as he picked up his mobile to check what had happened overnight.

With  a heavy heart he opened the political pages and saw that the Tories had managed a huge majority in parliament giving them carte blanche to do as they wish. It truly was an unlucky day for many, and even for many of those who voted for this mess, although they don’t quite know it yet.

This is a true horror story… and will slowly unfold over the next five years as the rich get even richer and the poor die on the streets.

A calendar showing Friday the 13

 

 

 

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Overheard

One of the chapters in our upcoming book, The Cava Chronicles, is about overheard conversations and the confusion or different ideas we get from hearing them. I’m sure most of us have a funny story or two about hearing snippets of other people’s conversations and the path our minds took from just a few words.  With people using blue-tooth earpieces with their mobiles I think this happens more and more.  Many times I have thought people were either talking to me or were talking to themselves before seeing the earpiece. I, on the other hand don’t wear an earpiece, I am not that important and rarely get voice calls anyway, and I am more than happy to talk to myself.

I’ve just been into town and on the walk back heard a few special conversations:

Woman on phone, “So I told him he can’t put it up there,”  in perfect English. This obviously whetted my appetite to hear more so I slowed down and did a bit of window shopping while listening in.  I tried to get abetter look at the woman to see if I recognised her too, I didn’t.

“He’s always like that, you know him, he knows better. I told him there wasn’t room, but he went ahead anyway, and who was right?” the conversation continued.

Now I know many of you have a mind like mine and will have gone the same as way my thoughts had headed.

“Yeah, that’s right, I know. So I told him the best place was beside the telly. We always had it there back home anyway.” she continued before moving on and leaving me to imagine the rest of the conversation.  I mean, doesn’t everyone have the Christmas tree near the television?!

Man to friend, “she took it all in one go.” (translated from Spanish). I heard no more of this conversation as the two men involved were rushing across in front of me, so I’ll leave you to make up your mind what he was talking about, just like I did.

Another woman to her friend, “You can’t tell him, Maria, not so near Christmas,” (translated again).  What was it she couldn’t tell him? Why was it better to wait until after Christmas?  Was it another immaculate conception? (Maria is the equivalent of Mary in English) Had Maria found someone else? My mind was in quite a spin, but again I heard no more of their conversation as they went into the chemist (to get what, I wondered?).

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Back to 1999

As many regular readers will know in May 1999 my husband Tony and I, along with a dear friend, Kath, were caught up in the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, London. Of course this traumatic episode features in my book, Berwick street to Barcelona. This year being the 20th anniversary there has been a lot of interest once more in what happened.

Earlier on in the year, for the actual ‘day of’ I was invited to appear in a BBC programme to talk about our experience. While I spoke to one of the journalists from the programme I refused to appear, knowing it would be too difficult to talk about in front of a large audience, or indeed any audience. Just writing this now I can feel my anxiety levels rising.

Anyway more recently I have been approached by another journalist to tell our story once more, and have had a conversation with him on the telephone which unfortunately brought it all back too clearly. There are parts that I cannot put into words and that I know will come up in my dreams (nightmares?) tonight.

Why did I do it then? Because the story needs telling and retelling. Homophobia and racism are still rampant, and more recently worse than for years and awareness of where it can lead is important.

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