Underpainting 8

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Chapter 8 of my novel Underpainting set in the early 1990’s. The previous chapters can be found in the link above.

8

The early morning clouds were pink and grey through Clare’s window. She could not remember when she had last been up at six. Matthew wasn’t home yet, she wasn’t over concerned, after all he was nineteen, but it was getting into a pattern, and patterns concerned her. The drug councillor told her to look out for patterns of behaviour, and this was the fourth night in a row that she knew he had been out all night. He had also started locking his room again.

Clare surveyed the street; cars parked bumper to bumper, a black cab setting off to work in the West End, through a corner of the bay window she could just make out Holloway Road at the end of her street, red buses regularly passing even at this time, and the glint of the mirror shop. She lit another cigarette, tied up her dressing gown, which was always falling open, and heard post falling through the letterbox, which made her jump. She looked outside and the postman was already next door.

“Hmm he’s alright,” she said to herself, “nice bum”.

She went down the hallway to the front door and stopped in front of the full-length mirror at the bottom of the stairs, opened up her dressing gown and looked at herself, naked.  Morning light streaming through the front door glass softened the edges. Clare knew she looked OK, she worked at it. She pushed her breasts up and felt she could do with a boob job, though no-one else seemed to mind, and where would she get the cash anyway. Stomach still flat (when she breathed in!), ‘nice legs’ she thought, ‘always had good legs’.

“You’re not bad for 37” she said to her reflection, and moved closer to examine her deep blonde hair. The dark parting was getting wider, “need to get that sorted don’t want to look like a fuckin’ tart”.

She picked up the mail, and decided she quite liked the quiet of the morning. Water bill, two catalogues, those damned electricity people again, and a handwritten letter from Knype. She opened it as she walked to the kitchen.

A note was hurriedly written on University paper, and she read:

Dearest Clare, sorry not to have been over on my last couple of visits, been really busy. I’m coming down soon for a couple of months to work on the set, so I’ll have plenty of time to see you then. Hope enclosed OK. Hope all’s well with Matthew, Peter.

£80 in twenty’s was folded up with the letter. She put it a drawer, screwed up the letter, and tossed it in the waste bin.

Clare knew Peter from her days at art college, he was a regular now. She’d been a few years older than most of the other students and was ambitious to make money from her painting, which separated her from the others. She already had Matthew who was nine when she had started at Knype, and that too set her apart. Peter was her personal tutor in the second year.

Since an early age she’d known how attractive she was to men, including her father, the thought of which made her shudder, however she never told anyone, he’d never touched actually her, except to slap. Attraction she’d tell herself could be both useful and a nuisance, and she had an ease about her that attracted men, as well as her body. Within ten minutes, they had usually told her their life story, or what was worth telling anyway. She’d learnt it was profitable to show great interest in their self-indulgence.

Soon after starting at Knype, Hilton Douglas, one of the painting tutors, asked if he could photograph her, he’d pay. From her first few weeks there she was expecting this; Hilton undressed her with his eyes every time she entered the studio. She needed the cash, Hilton promised the pictures were only going to be for his own use, and she knew what that meant. At the end of the second sitting, he offered her more cash and she gave him a blow job, after the third they had sex, he was gross, but it was money. Even now she shuddered at his stained black beard, mass of red/grey pubic hair, and greasy hands, but Matthew needed new shoes.

Hilton Douglas drank too much and talked freely, and by the end of her first year, she had lecturers from various departments of the university visiting her. Clare was discreet and became friends with a couple of their wives, who would quite often look after Matthew for her while (unknowingly) she was with their partner.

It was not until three years after she’d left college and had moved back to London that Peter started to visit her. She’d met him at a friends’ opening at the Clouds Gallery with Marianne, who she had always liked. They arranged to meet so they could look at her new work, Marianne couldn’t make it, and to the surprise of both of them, after talking very personally she and Peter had sex. She thought Peter didn’t realise how many regulars she had, she never talked about anyone else, and Peter didn’t ask.

At first, they would spent some time talking about Marianne, as well as Peter and his work and rise to success. Over the last year or so, he’d stopped mentioning Marianne; in fact, his hour with her was often spent lying on the bed chatting, about his work, college, Matthew, Dover Passage, students. Less and less sex, she didn’t mind, it was cash whatever the outcome. They would go into the room she used to use for painting, and they’d talk about what she was planning to do. The next time he came the plans were still to be started.

Clare heard the door open, and someone creeping in.

“Is that you Matthew?” she called out.

“Yes I’m knackered…. off to bed… wake me at one”

“Good” she thought to herself, “he’ll be gone in time”. She had a client coming at seven, she also hoped he’d brought her the diazi’s she’d asked him to get, he always seemed to know where to get them.

Over the past ten years Clare had slowly built up a regular clientèle, she liked them to be married and if possible, over fifty, easier to deal with, usually better manners, no hassle over wanting a ‘relationship’. Then ten months ago, her house had changed hands and her new landlord had asked her to a meeting. She had lived in Disraeli Street for eight years, and thought the meeting was to get rid of her, the area was changing, lots of yuppies moving in, higher rents, and she was ready for a battle.

Clare was ushered through a suite of offices just east of the City, to an oak panelled room and was sitting in front of a large desk, behind which was her new landlord, Frank Butter, behind him stood what she thought must be his minder, a tall good looking blonde guy, with cold blue eyes. She’d noted he had some good paintings and was surprised that Frank Butter wanted to see her personally; not leaving it to an agent to deal with what was a minor matter.

“Miss Forester” he opened abruptly, “I have a proposition”

“I know my rights Mr Butter, and by the way I have reverted to my mother’s maiden name Zetzer three year’s ago, I did inform the former landlord”

“I’m sure you did… Miss um… Zetzer” he looked at some papers on his desk, and wrote a note, “we’ve been noting who comes and goes at your house”; he put his hand up to stop her protesting, “we weren’t spying. As you probably know the house opposite is one of mine as well, and next door, well I just noticed someone I knew, and then looked a bit further into things”

“I have many friends Mr Butter, I’m an artist”

“Yes. Well Miss Zetzer, I want to make a deal with you. I’m sure an offer to let you live virtually rent-free wouldn’t come amiss?… No?” she nodded. “I thought not. I have many business acquaintances, often visiting from abroad, they usually arrive alone. I need someone to entertain them. Someone with a bit of class, who can talk intelligently, eat and drink properly, know which knife to use”, he put his hand up again to stop her interrupting, “…in addition, I need to know a little bit more about them, give me the edge when we’re finalising things. Do you understand me?”

Clare did and they came to an agreement. As well as her rent being cut by 90%, Mr Butter would remunerate her per visit, and sometimes the gentlemen would add to that with ‘tips’; she would let Mr Butter know what had been said, what had happened. Clare didn’t have to discuss the ‘tips’.

She didn’t really like the arrangement but felt it was hard not to accept. It reminded her of the time when she was desperate for cash and worked for an escort agency. She preferred the cosy arrangements she had with her regulars, but the extra cash would be handy, and London was getting expensive. However, she didn’t feel fully in control of her life and promised herself to get out of it as soon as she could. She never thought herself a prostitute, just someone who offered a personal service, a sort of therapy.

In the ten months since that meeting, she’d only once had to complain to Mr Butter about one man. She’d kicked him out after he’d given her a love-bite, a cocky man who said he was in the music business, wanting services she certainly wasn’t willing to offer. She was a bit worried when she told Frank Butter, but he didn’t mind, in fact he laughed very knowingly, and said that she was right, if he wanted that sort of thing he knew plenty of others who could help, he’d be more careful in future who he sent, and thanked her for the information which may be useful in the future.

Clare went back upstairs, and began tidying her bedroom, which didn’t need much doing, she was a very tidy person. Moishe the one-eyed black cat was asleep on the bed, she shewed him off and reluctantly he left for the warm kitchen. The room smelt of lavender to cover smoke and sweat. She had a round table in one corner covered by a white tablecloth, on which a rose patterned china tea set was set out, her gentlemen often liked to sit and talk over a cup of tea. It was part of her act and it filled time they were paying for. She had acquired a posh accent at the boarding school her grandparents’ had paid for, very English, and always wore smart clothes, not tarty, and thought she played the part well.

The evening’s client was initially one of Mr Butter’s business acquaintances, but had become a regular. She thought he must be at least seventy and he spoke with a strange accent. She felt a little uneasy because she had decided not to tell Mr Butter everything. He called himself Harry, but she thought that wasn’t his real name. He always brought with him a beautiful soft leather briefcase with the letters CLF embossed. She wondered if he was a politician.

He paid her well, far more than anyone else, so why bother what his name was she thought, and it was always in well-used ten-pound notes in a long blue envelope, which she didn’t open until he’d gone. They didn’t have sex; when he came, he took from his briefcase a black broad old thick leather belt, with a silver buckle shaped like two eagles. He stripped naked and knelt down, and told her to beat him with it, at first, she just slapped him, but he told her to beat him, hard, harder. The last two times he also brought a silver framed photograph, which he put in front of him, of a young man in uniform. As she beat him he cried out in a language she couldn’t understand. The one thing she didn’t like was that he’d asked her to shout anti-Semitic insults as she thrashed him. The worse the insults and harder she hit, the more he paid. £450 last time. She knew those insults from the time her drunken father hit her when she was home from school the week after her mother had died. Nevertheless, she knew it was business and you had to put up with things, especially as she’d seen a coat she liked, so today she planned to really let loose. At the end of each session, he’d dress, put on the belt, go into his case, turn and fill then hand her the sealed envelope, arrange another meeting, shake hands, and go; always through the back door. She told Mr Butter each time he came, in case he was monitoring her, but just told him he liked a blow job, she knew his need came from much deeper than Frank Butter required to know about.

The front door slammed, Clare looked out and saw Matthew walking quickly down the road.

“Damn” she said, she hadn’t got her diazi’s from him.

Dark clouds had gathered and it started to rain. When she went downstairs, she noticed the kitchen drawer was open and the £80 gone. She knew he was back on the stuff and hoped he wasn’t injecting.

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Writing Workshop Gladstone Pottery Museum

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Writing Workshop Sunday 8th September

Elisia Green and I ran a workshop as part of a weekend of workshops at the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. It is a lovely venue to work at, a Victorian pottery with the bottle kilns and work areas beautifully preserved, well worth a visit if you are coming to the Potteries.

Our two hour afternoon workshop Using your own experience as a basis for fiction, followed a morning workshop on Short Stories run by Peter and Jan from Renegades. It was based on one I have done a few times and consists of a series of practical exercises that work on many levels.

We had 13 people attending, a couple of who were ‘new’ writers and others with plenty of experience. That is a perfect number, too few and there is no variety, more then there is no time to read out and discuss.

Instead of handing out notes I have put together what took place with a couple of the writing examples in this blog.

It’s not a devastating revolution in writing workshops, but useful exercises at whatever level of writing you participate in and a way of seeing through different ‘eyes’. If it is any use to you please use the workshop for others.

  • We began by sharing one word to sum ourselves up, which I wrote down. I used ‘Arrogant’ for me. Each person came up with a different word, and we made use of them later. (Interestingly when a few years ago I worked with a room of nearly 150 writers, where they had to write their ‘defining’ word down and someone else read it out, there were no two words the same. I used ‘Saviour’ that day!).
  • After a short discussion about what sort of experiences to use, why writers use their own lives and some examples of novels closely based on people’s own lives we set forth.
  • Exercise 1 – Write down in no more than about five or six lines each, three events in your life – (births, wedding, first day at school banned!).
  • I read the following example (if you convene this workshop it is worth bringing examples):

I was 6, on holiday with the family at our caravan. I was playing with the caravan tow gear which was painted silver and solid. Suddenly the pin dropped and chopped the end of my finger off. I ran inside and held my hand up to my mother blood going everywhere. My brother fainted. I was taken to the hospital and remember the glass cabinets full of shining knives and operating instruments. I can still remember the feeling of sewing back the pieces of my finger.

  • One of the participants Sue wrote:

I went cycling last week. We took the bikes to the coast the head wind was cold and strong. Cycling against the wind. What a waste! Those coming the other way had the wind with them. Easy.

  • Exercise 2 – Rewrite one of the stories as if happening now, first person present continuous tense (I think!). Rather like from one of those point of view computer games or films .
  • My example was:  

A big gun, that’s what it is, a big gun. Need to move this push this a bit; it’s stiff. Better get both hands at it. Painted up, bang it a bit and push from the bottom. Ooh that’s hard, c’mon shift, need to move that to make it work. Ahhh. Blood. That’s blood, darker colour than I thought. That hurts, that hurts. Shooting pain up my arm. Better see mummy, she’ll know what to do. I’m probably in trouble, she’ll tell me off, daddy will be really annoyed, perhaps she won’t tell him. ‘Mummy, look what I’ve done, I’ve made  a mess all over my shorts’.

  • Some of the group read their pieces out. Sue’s was:

Hot and cold in patches, warm where your legs burn, round and round. Cold where the wind catches, head down. Bum out. And your hair flying across your eyes. Eyes that leak salt – blown away. A force that pushes, biking into cold jelly. What’s that you say? Should have come the other way.

  • Exercise 3 – Rewrite the story as if someone else not involved is watching the events happening, Elisia came up with a good phrase – ‘A witness to the event’.
  • My example was:

“What’s that lads’ name Ida?”

“Which lad?”

“You know, the little one, blonde curly hair… the old fashioned sky blue caravan at top of site. Think they come from Stoke. Always seem a bit stuck up to me”

“Who? Oh yes I know who you mean. Seem a nice family, always say hello. Now what’s his name… Christopher… or is it James? No, no I remember, Timothy, yes Timothy”

“Bloody posh name, think they’re better than us…”

“Why you asking Jim?”

“Well he’s just hurt himself playing round with the tow hook, blood everywhere… look all up to the window, a right mess”
“Oh dear Jim! Oh dear, we ought to help, they don’t have a car. He’ll need to go the hospital poor little man. Go go see if they need a lift Jim”

“I’m not getting my car covered in blood, bloody good leather that. No, let ‘em sort it, don’t get involved that’s what I say Ida… Don’t get involved and let ‘em look after themselves. I’ll close the curtains so they don’t come askin’…”

  • Sue’s exercise was:

They parked, I’m sure it was over the line. Right next to me it was and the shouting and clanking – I couldn’t hear the news. The robins flew away, but they don’t care, no. Unloading great hulking bits of iron – are they fly-tipping? No. It’s bikes – they are standing them up by the tree. Can’t keep to their own space can they? Quite puts me off my tea… oops the flask cup is shaking on the dashboard as their doors bang. Crumbs on the floor, I’m going to have to get the vac out. Silly hats! Off you go. Why they have to treat the countryside like a gym I don’t know. Thank goodness for that, they’ve gone; a bit of P & Q and a little drop of the hard stuff in me tea to calm me down I think…. Oh no! Here’s some more and they’ve got a dog.

  • Exercise 4 – Change the ‘nature’ of the person involved, writing the story from a different emotional point of view. So using the word they had come up with at the start, choose one of the other words. For instance if they were ‘quiet’ then write as an ‘outgoing’ viewpoint. This worked ok, but maybe needed more time and discussion between the participants.
  • People appeared to get a lot from this workshop, and found that they were able to disassociate themselves from the events, but still able to use what they knew, which were the reactions of others, of the ‘character’, smells, feelings and so forth.
  • If anyone who attended wishes to add their exercises to this please send them to me and I will update the blog.

The photograph is of the group busily writing!

Chicago 1978

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Today are some photographs I took in Chicago around Christmas time 1978. It was very cold! These are street photos of the EL, which fascinated me, taken late in the day on Ektachrome 200, much too slow a film hence they have some shake and odd focussing, however, I have always been quite pleased by the atmosphere they create and that is why I got them copied. I loved Chicago and would love to return, but I doubt I will.

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George and Christine’s Garden 2…

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Today I am using more photographs of my friends garden in Chalford, Gloucestershire, taken last week on warm sunny days. The garden is a rich mix of fruit, flowers and fruit. At the bottom is a stream and a canal. The photo of the steps to the stream looks like it is waiting for Ophelia to enter! This is a lovely time of year where colours are vibrant and many flowers are ending creating rich browns in the leaves and interesting shapes. I had never seen a red sunflower before, the colours have not been enhanced.

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Underpainting 7

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Chapter 7 of my novel Underpainting to read the first six press the link above.

7

Marianne inspected half a doll’s head she’d found in the park. One side was perfect, the other burnt. She placed it on the two foot square board, next to a tiny sweet box she’d found in Arras.

“Too sentimental” she murmured, and rummaged amongst the mass of debris she’d amassed over the years for a more suitable item.

Marianne’s studio was a cross between a magical kingdom and a refuse tip. Her current pictures featured found items, some repainted, some glued to a surface in the state they were found. They were an assembly of disparate items, sketches, small paintings; juxtaposed to tell their own stories or make disharmonious comments about a world which didn’t know how to value what it had. She was about half way through making her most ambitious work, for a touring exhibition featuring women artists. It was going to be a ‘quilt’ of 80 pictures, each one two feet square set out ten across and eight high. Each was different, some bright and glittering with what looked liked jewels sparkling through bright coloured paint, others were sombre, hard to decipher, objects draped with a found piece of fabric and paper.

Marianne would spend hours looking in corners, in skips. From holidays she’d bring home a suitcase full of discarded objects, boxes, the fragments of other peoples lives and cultures. Once in a car park near Disneyland in Los Angeles, two huge security men frog-marched her to their office because she was searching through trash cans. After she’d explained who she was and what she did, the two men escorted her around Disneyland. The things they turned up were phenomenal and a whole series of pictures featured plastic Mickey’s, Minnie Mouse socks, Donald Duck pens and all the ephemera and junk imaginable. Marianne sent the Guards two special pictures and they wrote polite thank you letters.

From a red wooden box she picked out a three legged plastic dog, quite big.

“Yes” she said out loud, “that’s it”.

With a large brush she painted parts of it blue, left it to dry and was wiping her hands clean when her mobile phone rang. Peter had insisted she have one and now she had to admit it was useful. She pressed the reply button, and before she’d had time to say anything Angela’s voice bellowed “How dare you come between Lizzie and Me! How dare you, I thought you were a friend?”

“Angela, what do you…”

“How dare you, behind my back… I have never been so humiliated, just because you’ve got no children doesn’t mean you can interfere with mine”

“Hang on Angela… I’ve never..”

“Oh yes you have, Lizzie told me about that little chat you had, and introducing her to that Ryan Harris, well… he’s as old as me… her whole life is ruined because of your stupid meddling”

Angela burst into tears. After about half a minute of Angela sobbing Marianne slowly spoke.

“Angela… the night Bill died…. Lizzie and I sat in the kitchen and talked…. she was anxious and not sure what to do… Lizzie wanted to tell me about her band… it appeared important and she wanted to do things her way, she only needed to talk to someone”

“She could have talked to me, she always knew she could… You should have put her off the idea, she should have gone to college, it’s what we wanted.”

“Is it what she wanted?”

“Of course it was you bitch, she doesn’t know what she wants… only a silly teenage whim.”

“She’s a young woman Angela… Have you heard the band?..”

“Oh it’s just noise, I couldn’t spare the time…”

“There, you see, she wanted to talk, someone to listen seriously, and it’s good”

“Oh, you can’t blame me for this mess, this is of your making”

“How do you mean my making?”

“Yes you, you bitch, you fucking bitch! You got her in with that Ryan, that scumbag you used to fuck at college, he’s old enough to be her father, did you tell him he’d get an easy lay with a young girl?”

“I really don’t know what you’re on about now Angela? When we were in London I took a tape of Lizzie’s to get his opinion, he said he’d listen, send someone from their R and D department whatever that is, that was all, he knows about bands and recording and all that sort of thing…”

“Well she’s moved in with him”

Marianne was dumb struck.

“Yes… that’s made you think miss high and mighty. He went to see the band play, went backstage and Lizzie was bowled over by the thought of stardom, he asked her to come and lay down some tracks and well…”

“Angela there was nothing I said… I was trying to help Lizzie”

“Well you did a damn good job of that didn’t you…”

“What about Sue?”

“Who’s Sue?”

“Ryan’s wife”

“There’s been no wife been mentioned, Lizzie’s moved into his house, queen of the bloody castle, won’t talk to me, no the silly girl, doesn’t want to know!”

Angela hung up. Marianne thought about ringing her back, but felt it would be better when she’d calmed down and looked around her desk for Ryan’s number.

“… The dirty old bastard” she thought “…and I didn’t fuck him Angela” she shouted, “…you’re the one to talk about fucking for God’s sake, you old cow!”.

She felt better for that.

There was a soft knock on the studio door and a woman’s head popped round. It was Greta, who had the studio next door.

“You OK Marianne? I heard shouting”

“So did I, must have been outside”

Greta’s head disappeared. Marianne couldn’t find Ryan’s number. She looked down at her picture.

“The dog!” she cried out. The acrylic paint had dried hard. “Damn…” She’d lost her concentration, took a deep breath, stood up and decided to go home.

A Post-it note was stuck on the kitchen table. “Gone to Angela’s, back soon”, it was from Peter.

“I bet he’s getting it in the neck as well” Marianne thought as the front door opened and Peter walked in, he looked shaken.

“She got at you as well?”

“What, Angela’s not said anything has she?” Marianne thought Peter looked worried.

“Angela, she rang and told me about Lizzie and Ryan, she must have said something…?”

“What about them?”

“They’ve moved in together”

“But how? It must be ten years since Ryan was about?”

“She blames me”

“Mari, I haven’t a clue what you’re on about”, Peter sounded stern and sharp.

“Don’t snap like that at me. In London, I saw Ryan, forgot…”

“Sorry, it was nothing to do with me”

“What do you mean?”

“Angela, she told you about this afternoon?”

“Now I don’t know what you’re on about?”

“Angela”, Peter said slowly and thoughtfully, “… rang me at about two, a pipe had burst and she didn’t know what to do…”

“I’d only just talked to her, she didn’t say anything. Doesn’t sound like her…”

“Well I went over…”

“Knight in shining armour” Marianne interjected.

“….I went over and there was water all over the kitchen. Angela went to switch off the main hot tap upstairs. It was a connection come loose. I went upstairs to tell her it was all OK, and she was standing in her bedroom naked…”

Marianne started to laugh.

“And what did you do? Draw her?” she went into convulsions of laughter.

Peter was angry.

“No! And nothing else! She said how good I’d been to her, how great a friend I was, for God’s sake Marianne stop laughing, it wasn’t funny!” Marianne was crying with laughter.

“I wish I’d been there to see it, I bet your face was a picture Pete, a bloody Rembrandt!”

Peter couldn’t see what was so funny, to him it was sad and embarrassing.

“…I said I loved you and asked if I could help her, how I knew she was still grieving…”

This sent Marianne into even more gales of laughter. Peter couldn’t stand it, he left the house slamming the front door.

Marianne knew she’d been cruel to him, but really, he wasn’t Angela’s sort was he?

Over the twenty years they’d known Bill and Angela, they had become close and Marianne had become Angela’s confidante. Peter, Marianne supposed, had become Bill’s, she wasn’t really sure. Bill had rather publicly, and often highly embarrassingly, had a string of silly affairs with young women students. One had even visited Angela and announced that Bill was going to leave her, Angela had taken her upstairs and told her to start filling cases with his things, and she could take the kids as well. Angela loved telling that story and Marianne wasn’t sure if it was true. Bill always had to confess to Angela in highly graphic detail, she extracted everything, every little detail of what happened, how and where. She would then make a scene which she’d perfected over the years to a piece of high camp drama, and would eventually forgive him, for now.

Peter would have a long man to man chat with Bill in a pub, which Marianne would hear about and pass on to Angela, these mainly consisted of Bill saying how he had to keep his freedom even in the constraints of marriage, these earnest talks would usually end in Peter going home drunk.

On the other hand Angela, certainly not to Peter’s knowledge and Marianne thought not to Bill’s (who thought of her as a saint), had had numerous and quite serious affairs. Angela would go away on ‘selling trips’, usually to London, Bath or Edinburgh. There she had what she called her ‘alternative therapy’ with gallery owners, actors, potters, artists and once a quite famous American poet. She even went to Vermont with him and Marianne remembered thinking how much Charles looked like the poet, the only one in the family with red hair. She commented on this but Angela dismissed it out of hand.

So what was she doing trying to seduce Peter? To get back at Marianne?

“Well it hasn’t worked madam” thought Marianne, “… I know you far too well”

What Peter must have thought she really didn’t know.

“He should have gone in and done it that would have called her bluff…” she thought, “…do I really mean that?”. She knew that Angela would have revelled in telling her all the details and she’d have felt bad, even though it wouldn’t have meant anything.

“I wonder if she’s ever tried before?” she said out loud, and Marianne remembered a disastrous holiday in a Cornish cottage, twelve years before. Bill was sleeping off a hangover, Marianne had gone to Truro to meet a friend, and Peter and Angela had gone to a secluded beach to draw. When they returned to the cottage Peter had wanted to go home straight away for some stupid reason.

“… I remember now”, she thought, “I bet she did, wouldn’t think he did… the old cow, she always did keep quiet about that day.”

Then she remembered how Bill had once pushed her into a corner at a party, feeling her bum, then her breasts, saying how she was so beautiful and the sort of woman he really needed. Marianne had pushed him away but Angela had noticed what was going on and went mad at them, not listening to Marianne’s protests of innocence.

It didn’t matter now she thought.

Peter sat in The Lamb. He was upset. He couldn’t understand how Marianne could laugh, it had hurt him, and after all he’d told her, he didn’t need to.

“…and Ryan? What’s all this about Ryan?” he thought.

Marianne, Ryan and Peter had attended the same college. Ryan was more interested in music than painting and had been kicked out before the end of the course, and had a soft spot for Marianne, in fact he’d been the first person to call her Marianne. Her name was really Mary Ann; Ryan liked Leonard Cohen and thought Marianne sounded more romantic, more artistic and it stuck. Peter thought that they’d been lovers before he and Marianne got together. Marianne always denied it. Ryan was different to the rest, even at college he made money, promoted music, made deals. After he left college he set up his own promotions company, and a record company at 24. When he was still at college he’d married Sue who he’d known for years, a finalist for Miss England. The long haired scruffy lads at college mocked her, but were secretly jealous of Ryan for being able to (in the parlance of the time) ‘pull such a bird’. Marianne and Sue had got on well, then they went their separate ways, Peter and Marianne back up North, Ryan and Sue to Surrey.

Peter and Marianne had drifted together. Moved in to share a flat in their third year, as it was cheaper, never thought beyond the next week, both had separate plans after college, even now they still had separate bank accounts, had none of the official ties people seemed to get lumbered with. If they’d sat down in 1968 and thought that in twenty two years they’d still be together they’d have never believed it.

Ten years previously they’d met up again with Ryan and Sue and had dinner, then nothing.

“… and what was all this about Lizzie anyway?” Peter thought. He finished off his pint and decided to go home and see what it was all about. He realised that he must have sounded like a pompous idiot and ought to apologise to Marianne.

“Shit” he thought, “I better ring Clare, she’ll be frantic”.

Canal stroll, Chalford

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Today’s photographs are from last Monday when I was at my friend’s in Chalford. The now disused Thames and Severn Canal runs at the bottom of their garden and along the valley. It still has a lot of water and is well overgrown, creating an interesting mix of broken down man made structure morphing with nature which is taking over.

There were some interesting reflections but I just couldn’t capture them on photographic images and, like a subject I tried capturing in North Wales the week before, would be better served in another medium like paint. I will look at this issue in another blog.

These were taken around 5pm on a warm day when the sun was lower and making interesting  dapples, light frames and shadows.

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Christine and George’s Garden

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I visited some of my oldest and loveliest friends this week in Gloucestershire, that’s why there were no blogs this week until today. They have a house in a valley in Chalford and a wonderful garden where flowers, fruit and vegetables mix together. These photographs were taken on beautiful sunny warm days. I took lots and will be using some more in future blogs.

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