I do not believe in anything. My dear wife was always more religious than I. That is to say she was more open-minded when it came to matters spiritual and incorporeal, tending towards a polite agnosticism over my own intractable atheism, and general scepticism towards the supernatural beyond the pages of my own fiction.
I was having had a spot of bother with a rich man’s wife. She was older than me but I didn’t care. I just wanted her, like some strange and terrible drug. It was the usual story. She’d married young, enticed by the charm of a mature and successful man, and the stability that comes of secure investments. The age gap had not seemed so much when she was twenty and he was fit and fifty.
Being between editorial jobs and an operation, I’ve been cleaning out my study this week, a task that was long overdue. Amongst the glory holes and dusty-musties, I found a hard copy of the following, which I wrote for Gracie while we were courting, years before we married, before Lily, who didn’t make it, and Vincent, who’s five in July. Anyway, I am not, by nature a poet – as I’m sure you can tell – but this caught me funny, because it was and remains just so us: Lux and Ivy, Lily and Herman, off in a little world of our own, a cornucopia of love and horror. So this one’s for Gracie – I hope you don’t mind. I’m so glad I found you. I thank the old gods every day. Happy Birthday, babe, I love you…
The was something I did for the Unthank School blog last Christmas that I’d forgotten about until I spotted Ashley’s list while browsing his blog just now. The idea was for Unthank staff to briefly list and discuss five books that we had read in 2015, regardless of publishing date or genre. This was mine…
It was the end of the frustrating fifties. Mary, my mother, heavily pregnant at sixteen, like her mother before her, and just as tragically innocent of the mechanics of her own body, took to the outside toilet suffering from violent stomach cramps. A convulsive eternity later, with a double scream (one of utter terror on Mum’s part and mild surprise on mine), I was born.
‘The thing I love about this job,’ said the soldier, ‘is that you never know where you’ll end up next.’ You and me both, I thought, following him along the deserted seafront. One day you’re doing a bit of freelance journalism, the next you’re on some mysterious Pacific island at the invitation of the owners, all expenses very generously paid. Odd really, given that when I was in the Fleet Street mainstream I was one of their most ardent critics. I shielded my eyes and surveyed a promenade of abandoned cars and looted shops. Off the grid corporate retreats can get pretty weird but I hadn’t seen this one coming.
I first cultivated something like a friendship with Billy, the lonely old boy upstairs, because he reminded me of my dad. But the longer I lived in that little ground floor flat the more he reminded me of myself. The low-rise flats were red brick and post-war, and I had grown up in one just like it myself, with the same narrow hallway with bedrooms in an inverted ‘T’ shape at one end and a heavy door topped with a single panel of frosted glass at the other.
This is a life-long obsession. My late mother was a Spiritualist and I grew up in an environment in which readings and séances were as natural as church and football, although my father dismissed such things as ‘Codswallop!’ To this day I remain fascinated with the subject, and still a little afraid of ghosts. Anyway, however ill or down I was last year I could always get completely lost in a short, scary story.