Posts Tagged ‘Gladys Hobson’

Short Story — Short Changed by Gladys Hobson

December 6, 2010

Short Changed by Gladys Hobson

A little sweetness is the cause of many a problem


Roger Trumpington, six feet of hefty flesh dressed in corduroy trousers and tweed jacket aromatised with cigars, which might have been pleasant had it not been as stale as the whiskey pong that accompanied it, looked again at the till receipt and counted the change just handed to him. His face turned red with indignation.
“I’ve been short changed,” he said, his whole manner imperious as though talking to a lesser mortal. “I gave you a twenty pound note.”
“I don’t think so, sir,” the girl at the counter said in a trembling voice, in tune with her shaking hands playing a concerto on the counter.
“I should know what I handed over,” Roger stated, snatching out his wallet and searching the note pockets.
He splayed the wallet in front of the shrinking assistant, presently five feet tall but surely not for long. The pathetic creature— skinny limbs protruding from a cherry-red uniform— seemed to be disappearing behind the till, as though it acted as armour to ward off the verbal battering ram.
“Look here, woman —twenty-pound notes only. I had five, now I have four. That is all the money I have on me, plus the change you have just handed me.” A triumphant grunt accompanied the twitching of his shaggy moustache and a straightening of his shoulders. “Now, please hand over the tenner my change is lacking, and we’ll say no more about it.”
“But you only gave me ten pounds, sir.” Her worried face had turned the colour of her uniform hat — white with red blotches. “I put the note with the other tens.” She pressed a key on the till and it sprung open. “You see, there are no twenties with the tens.”
“Clearly you did nothing of the kind. My patience is wearing thin. Hand me the rest of my change at once.” He thumped the desk, causing the till drawer to tremble and rattle the coins.
A nattily dressed, overweight lady, sitting at a close-by table, took out a pen and small notebook from her handbag. Being a reporter on the Hepstone weekly newspaper, and recognising the bullying customer as a newsworthy person, she couldn’t believe her luck. She sipped at her tea and waited for a fracas to develop.
“Can I be of some assistance?” With all the customers’ eyes fixed on the drama taking place at the till counter, the café owner had materialised like a rose-scented genie out of a vodka bottle. She half-staggered to the till desk.
Trumpington visibly relaxed. “Ah, perhaps you will instruct this assistant to give me what is mine. I gave her a twenty pound note, she has given me change for a tenner.”
“But he only gave me ten pounds, Mrs Bradley. I put his note here with the tens. See, there are no twenties here.” The accused rubbed at the tears threatening to stream down her cheeks. “Look for yourself.”
“But are you sure you put the note with the tens, Ethel?”
“Of course. If it had been a twenty I would have put it with the twenties.”
Mrs Bradley smiled sweetly at Trumpington. “It seems there has been a mistake somewhere. It will sort itself out when I count the cash against the receipts this evening. Could I have your phone number please? I will let you know the result tomorrow morning.”
Trumpington’s moustache bristled as anger purpled his cheeks. “Are you doubting my honesty? Outrageous!” His overheated breath, oozing of garlic and Gorgonzola cheese, reached out to embrace all within reach. “Do you know who I am, madam? You happen to be speaking to Roger Trumpington, Lord of Little Kirkstone Manor, and Conservative candidate at the coming election.” Spit glistened on his hirsute upper lip, like beads of dew on a doormat.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, sir. No doubt a mistake has been made.” All of Mrs Bradley’s five feet and six inches of height, stood to attention, uncurling the wrinkles from her smoky-grey dress. But the furrows in her face sharpened with concern. She turned to the shrunken Ethel, now completely hidden from customer view.
“Return the twenty pounds to this customer immediately, Ethel. The meal is on the house.”
“But, Mrs Br—”
“At once. No argument. And please apologise.”
“But—”
“Now.”
“No.”
“What?”
“I said, no. I am not the liar. He only gave me ten pounds.”
A cacophony of voices filled the air:
“Apologise…” Mrs Bradley kept repeating,
“No, never…”
“Monstrous, monstrous…” Trumpington fumed, thumping the desk.
“He’s lying, not me,” Ethel yelled. “He gave me a tenner. He’s lying I tell you.”
“What!” thundered Trumpington; body now shaking with fury, hands whirling, and spit decorating pastries on a nearby stand. “I have never been so insulted in my entire life.”
A waitress muttered, “It was a tenner, I saw it.”
Another waitress, hovering near the scene, obviously heard and yelled above the commotion, “Ethel is innocent. The union will support her.”
Cheering from the customers.
“Quite right,” said one of them, and the reporter secretly made a few more notes, under the cover of her left hand and a red teapot.
Before long the whole room was as noisy as opening time at a Selfridge’s sale.
Mrs Bradley snatched a twenty-pound note from the till and handed it to Trumpington, along with two vouchers for evening meals. “Please accept these, sir, and I’m really sorry for the inconvenience caused you.”
Roger Trumpington cleared his throat noisily. “I was considering taking legal action for slander. I have my good name to consider. However, I will consider this recompense as good as an apology.” He grasped the twenty pound note and vouchers, stuffed them in his jacket pocket and made his way out, to the accompaniment of a few boos from laughing customers.
The lady reporter gave herself a few seconds break to sip her tea. What a scoop!
A voice sounded above the chatter, “Staff, all out.”
Waitresses turned and began their way back to the kitchens.
“No,” shouted Mrs Bradley. “I will personally apologise.” She turned to Ethel. “I’m so sorry, my dear. Of course you are completely innocent of lying, but we cannot afford to upset valued customers.”
“Valued customer? He only had a cup of tea,” said Ethel. “I’ve been slighted. Now everyone will think I’m a liar.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
“You gave that old geyser twenty quid, plus two free meals,” said the waitress’s union representative, with a menacing look at her employer, “You should do the same for the innocent party. At least fifty pounds is due.”
Mrs Bradley shifted uneasily, as though someone had put ants down her back. She thrust her hand inside the till and pulled out fifty pounds. “Take this, Ethel, and please accept my full apologies for the way you’ve been treated.” She slammed the till shut, her twisted smile doing its best to be pleasant even if the woman inside the dress was as mad as hell.
Ethel sniffed back a tear. “Thank you, Mrs Bradley. I don’t see why that awful man should get away with it, though. You’ve been too generous with him. An apology was all I wanted, but this will come in handy.”
The lady reporter wondered what Solomon would have done in a case like this. A hundred pounds down the drain for Mrs Bradley, and she suspected a few customers had left without paying while the fracas was going on.
“It’s only ten minutes before your shift ends, Ethel,” said Mrs Bradley wearily. “You can go now. I’ll take over the till.”
“Oh, that’s all right, Mrs Bradley. I don’t mind staying.”
“But I mind. Please go now, Ethel.” There was no doubting Mrs Bradley’s determination to exercise her managerial rights. She put her hand on Ethel’s shoulder and guided her towards the kitchen door, then quickly returned to the till in time for a customer about to leave.
“Table number?” she asked with a well-practised smile.
“Sixteen. Cornish tea for two.” The customer, still wearing a dob of cream on her chin, leaned forward. “I really admire the way you handled that business. Poor Ethel, will you give her this tip please?” She put a fiver next to the till. “That chap is a right nasty character, he won’t get my vote.”
“I’m sure he believed he was right. Mr Trumpington is a gentleman after all.”
As the customer left, Mrs Bradley slipped the £5 into the staff box by the till.
The reporter wondered how many more sympathy tips Ethel would receive. If she had given the wrong change to Trumpington she must be a damn good actress, but then she had seen just as good in court. Ethel could have pocketed the missing tenner from the till quite easily. Sham tears? Clearly, Mrs Bradley thought so, or why did she send her off duty? Not that that anyone’s opinion counted. Election time, and in that Labour constituency, the news hounds were after Trumpington’s blood. And she, Georgina Stoke, was no exception. First, finish her tea and then a phone call to Hepstone Manor.

“Is that you, Roger?” It was his wife calling from the kitchen, from which delicious aromas were drifting towards him. “Had a good day?”
Trumpington walked through the hall of his grand Victorian abode, intent on outpouring the humiliation he’d experienced at the café that afternoon. He ignored the pile of correspondence awaiting him on the hallstand.
“Got your letters? You seem to get more every day. Wonderful to be getting so much support. Isn’t it exciting?” Greta, his slim and elegant wife, looked radiant as usual, in spite of the plastic pinny. “Lots of messages on the answer-phone too. One caller wants to interview you about a debacle at some café or other. What on earth is the woman talking about?”
“A reporter? Hell. Surely the local papers haven’t got hold of it?”
“Hold of what?” She waved a large knife, and a salmon had its head chopped off.
“Oo, don’t do that! I think that’s what I’m in for. Do you know, Greta, a damn waitress practically accused me of trying to get money by false pretences.” He walked to the fridge and took out a bottle of white wine, then poured out a large measure into a crystal goblet. “It was most humiliating. The woman is either forgetful or a common thief.”
He sat at the kitchen table and took a large swig of the cooled liquid. The blue LED lights twinkled at him from the black quartz floor, while the white LED ceiling lights flashed lightning-bright sparkles through the goblet of wine. But he was in no mood to enjoy his wife’s delightful renovated kitchen design, even if the oak and granite fittings had cost him a small fortune — hopefully to be recouped once he was in Parliament.
“How do you mean?” Greta asked, before sipping wine from Roger’s glass. “Do you want broccoli or asparagus with the salmon?”
“Never mind vegetables, this is serious.” He waved a hand across his forehead. “I couldn’t let her get away with it. Too much of that sort of thing goes on these days. I gave her a twenty-pound note for a pot of tea. She gave me change for a tenner. I wonder how much the woman makes in a week diddling the customers?”
“A twenty-pound note for a cup of tea?”
“I put all my change in a collection box outside the Town Hall. I have to do what I can for my image. I had a hundred in twenties from the cash machine this morning and I was at the meeting until mid afternoon.”
“How much do you have now? And by the way, didn’t you get that box of chocolates for Mother? It’s her birthday and she’s coming tonight for dinner. Oh, Roger, you promised me you’d get it.”
“Chocolates? Oh yes, I forgot all about the chocolates. Not surprising with the day I’ve had. I must have left them on the back seat of the car.”
“You did get Thorntons, her favourites?”
“Yes, of course, we mustn’t disappoint the old buzzard. It was a £10 box, ready wrapped. I’ll go get it when I’ve finished this.”
“Oh my goodness. Roger, do you realise what you’re saying? You must have had four twenties and a ten when you went in the café. Quickly, have another look.”
First, Roger dabbed at the wine he’d involuntarily slurped over his corduroy trousers. “Damn, they’re ruined… I could swear on the Bible that I gave that woman a twenty.” He pulled his wallet from his jacket pocket.
His wife snatched it off him and counted the notes. “Four, there’s four, Roger.” She hurriedly searched his pockets. “You have another one here, plus a large amount of change. Nearly ten pounds I think.”
“That’s the change for the tea, plus a twenty recompense. Those vouchers were given to me as well.” He put his head in his hands. “Damn… damn… damn.”
“So you must have used the £10 change from the chocolates to pay for your tea, otherwise you would only have three twenties in your wallet… oh, Roger.”
“Oh hell. What should I do, Greta? The till receipts will show they were right. That bloody reporter who rang will make mincemeat of me.”
“Leave it to me. I’ll write a note to the café explaining that you’ve been under a lot of strain lately, and although you had good reason to believe you had proffered a twenty-pound note to pay the bill, on reflection, you may have been mistaken. I’ll put the vouchers and the money in the envelope too, plus an extra twenty for the waitress. I’ll call it a tip. After all you usually do leave a tip when dining out.”
Roger released a heavy pent-up groan and mumbled, “Bloody expensive pot of tea. Go ahead, the sooner the better.”

The next morning, Roger decided to get another box of chocolates, this time for his wife — bless her. Dear Greta had called back the person who’d asked Roger for an interview, telling her the matter had been sorted out, but promising the bloodhound bitch an exclusive videoed dialogue if Roger won the election.
The assistant in the Thorntons shop, a cheerful redhead in a coffee and chocolate uniform, instantly recognised him.
“You came in yesterday: Roger Trumpington, isn’t it?”
“Correct.” His breakfast threatened to join the chocolates on the counter. “I expect you have seen my face on the election posters.”
“Yes, that’s right… and in the papers.”
Roger inwardly groaned.
She gave him a pleasant smile. “Have you called in for the change you left behind yesterday? Here it is. I kept it by the till — a ten-pound note. I thought you might come back for it.”

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Never mind the title, feel the heat!

May 28, 2010

Reviews for the three books in my Love By Design trilogy — Awakening Love, Seduction, Checkmate are hotting up. Visit Fools Paradise to see Payton L Inkletter’s last review — of my Seduction! (a previous publication was known as Seduction By Design)
You can read it here but you miss the animation — you’ll laugh your socks off!

Also posted here is a review by Andrew O’Hara (Andy is deeply involved with the Badge Of Life. Visit the BOL site, for eye opening revelations about their work.)

Go to my author site Hobsons Books for more reviews

SEDUCTION BY DESIGN

Seduced by design. Designed for seduction!

“Seduction by Design” is a triumph. Entertaining, wild, erotic (sheesh :), and full of enough twists and turns to keep the reader engrossed. A great piece of reading, written with Gladys Hobson’s very typical skill! (Longer one below)
Andy O’Hara

Seduction By Design

I was keen to sink my teeth into this novel, ‘Seduction by Design’, Gladys Hobson’s second in her ‘Designed For Love’ series, because she had me hooked with her first, ‘Desire’ (known in the UK as Awakening Love).

These are no ordinary romance novels. They are written by a mature age author, whose abundance of wisdom invests the chapters with a fragrance rare. A young person simply could not achieve this, and the gems of insight Ms Hobson scatters throughout her story delighted me.

As for the characters, my dislike of the arch bastard Robert Watson magnified in this instalment, while my love for the beautiful June Rogers nee Armstrong was tempered – Ms Hobson portrays just what a flawed woman she is despite her enormous and rare talent for couture design; and to make matters more arresting for me, I am tarred with many of the same brushstrokes as June, if I want to be honest.

Thus I was not only entertained by this engrossing tale, I was a tad convicted.

It is the early seventies, the setting having jumped a couple of decades from that of ‘Desire’, and my word how well Ms Hobson has integrated the plot from that instalment!

The thermostat regarding eroticism has been turned up a few notches in ‘Seduction…’, and that’s saying something, and yet, as with her first, there is nothing dirty or obscene in her explicit portrayals, and I tip my hat to her for this achievement: sexually charged encounters aplenty, without impurity – trashy romance writers take notice!

Something rare for me: I was actually mesmerised in places as I consumed this believable story involving an assortment of characters that would exist in any big town and city. And as in my previous review, let me reiterate that, as a writer, I continued to be informed and educated regarding effective technique to convey and captivate.

Well done Ms Hobson, and when is the final novel, ‘Checkmate’, going to be finished for me to learn what happens to these characters, who have become such a part of my imagination?
Payton L. Inkletter (writer, thinker, humorist)

SEE INKLETTER’S ANIMATED REVIEWS AT Fools Paradise!

Seduction by Design (about to be published by Turquoise Morning Press as ‘Seduction’ by G B Hobson)

Here’s a book that carries the reader right along in a smooth, continuous delight of romance, erotic adventure and well woven suspense. Author Gladys Hobson kicks right off with a bang, introducing us to the sensual June Rogers. A fashion designer by trade, June is grieving the death of her husband, Arthur, and begins to take readers on a tangled journey of love and hate with the attractive Charles and the ever despicable Robert–and is he ever!

Trite as that might sound, Hobson truly brings these three main characters (and a surrounding cast of delightful cast members) to vivid life in her “Seduction by Design.” This book keeps the reader on one’s toes as misfortunes lead to twisted plots and motives, and then to one misunderstanding after another that almost lead to tragedy and final heartbreak and yet, in the end — well, the writer sums it up best as, “Deja vu,” which you will have to find out by reading this delightful piece of work!

Gladys Hobson is a well practiced writer, spinning a tale smoothly and naturally. She is economical and yet she is capable of painting entire scenes and montages with dialogue, a quick glance, the sparkle of an eye or the dart of a smile so quickly that a reader doesn’t even know it’s happening. This is a rare talent and a delight.

“Seduction by Design” is good reading. It’s flat-out entertaining, suspenseful, erotic, fun, and heartwarming!

Andrew O’Hara (editor of The Jimston Journal, author of prize-winning The Swan, Tales of the Sacramento Valley) lives in the USA and now runs the Badge Of Life.

Please note: My trilogy and Smouldering Embers will now be published by Turquoise Morning Press and my The Dark Mirror (previously published as When Angels Lie) is being published by Storm Moon Press

Lindal-in-Furness 1969-83 — with poem

April 9, 2010

After spending our early years of marriage in Beeston, Nottingham, followed by thirteen years of family life in Loughborough, Leicestershire, we moved north to South Cumbria (to what was then part of Lancashire). People were awed that we would move to near Barrow-in-Furness. It was considered to be the end of a cul-de-sac, if not the end of the world. And yet, the first time we drove up here, the scenery we passed through lifted my spirit and I knew that we were doing the right thing. True, the roads then were poor and the children were constantly sick as we drove in and out of the area. But things improved and the new roads give spectacular views of sea, mountains and fells. The air is fresh and clean, the pace gentle and the ‘natives’, in the village where we first settled, friendly. As indeed are the people where we now live – just a few miles away. We never thought when we were young that we would live in such a wonderful place as Cumbria, with its magical walks and drives throughout the English Lake District. Fells, mountains, lakes, rivers and streams, not to mention the culture embracing literature and art.
I wrote the following poem when we were about to leave our first home up here.

Our Time in Lindal 1969-1983

Sixteen years of village life,
So many changes we have seen
In brick and stone, and mortal flesh:
Time for a boy to become a man,
For a youth to grow in wisdom
And strong men change to weak.
Time for many friendly souls
To take their leave of earthly things
Having left their mark in village lore.

Sixteen years since first we came —
Townies in a rural place:
“Takes thirty years to be accepted.”
Half that time has passed away,
But villagers with roots going deep
Into Lindal soil and Furness ore,
Faithful members of the church,
Keepers of the rural scene,
Have not withdrawn a hand of friendship.

Sixteen years, now we move on —
With sadness yes, but thankful too
For all that Lindal’s given us.
Thankful for the friendships made,
The cheerful smiles, acknowledging waves,
And nods of recognition.
Thankful for the time and space
To move and grow, explore and be,
Thankful for acceptance.

The Man Who Told Lies

March 12, 2010

The Man Who Told Lies
By Gladys Hobson

‘Back from holiday? You won’t have heard then. That tramp who lived over there (he pointed to the cottages across the road) is dead. It was in the local paper — front page!’
Puzzled, I followed his gaze. ‘Tramp?’
‘You know, that old guy. Didn’t look after himself — drunkard. Wore shabby clothes, looked rough, needed a shave. Took his little dog for walks.’
The little dog — cute rat on long legs with a whippet tail — immediately identified the dead man. Tears rose in my eyes. ‘You mean Mark? Mark Ashley?’
‘That’s the guy. Told proper porkies. Police have been knocking on doors trying to find out if he had any relatives.’
‘He has a son — he’s a surgeon — and a grandson. They live in New York.’
‘Really? Nobody’s mentioned that. Better tell the police then. They’ve been asking all over the area. Someone said he has a cousin.’
‘He does. I think he lives nearby.’
With difficulty, I tried to hide the deep grief tugging at my heart. ‘What happened to Mark?’
‘Walked out to get his usual supper and fell down the cellar steps of one of those houses in Soutergate. Half drunk probably. A woman from the house rang for an ambulance. They took him to Furness General. He was sent on to Preston. He was in a coma for days, then he died.’
I was too upset to take in what else my neighbour said. Thankfully, he had to get to town and we parted company. No longer enjoying the beauty of trees and flowers that lined my path, or the warmth of midsummer sun, I walked the short distance to my home dazed and shivering. Mark dead? No more would I greet him and listen to his outrageous lies. No more would I see that silly grin and hear him chuckle at his own deceits. No more would I fuss that silly dog which had stolen his heart. Mark was dead. My friend Mark was dead and gone forever.
In my kitchen I made myself a pot of tea. I took a cup from the cupboard and put in a spoonful of coffee granules. I picked up the teapot and began to pour. What the hell was I doing? I hadn’t put in the milk. Wait a minute; there was coffee in the cup! I pulled myself together and decided on tea.
I drifted to the living room with its big picture windows giving views over fields and gardens. All so beautiful, life was going on as before, and yet…
Enjoying the familiar comfort of my reclining chair, I drank my tea and questioned why I felt so bereft. After all, Mark was not a relative nor had he been a close friend. True he was once a colleague sharing in the challenges imposed by the Ministry of Education when the local schools were reorganised into unwilling comprehensives, but he was a man very much on the periphery of my life.
Mark dead. I sighed deeply at the image in my mind of when I last saw him: uncombed hair topped with black woolly hat, grim face in need of a shave, head down, collar of black coat up, his limping frame bearing him up the road with his only true friend in tow — Peter the silent dog.
‘Hi, Mark,’ I said, as he was hurrying past.
He stopped, both he and Peter looking up. ‘Hello, Gladys, I didn’t see you.’
I patted the dog and it gave a nervous quiver.
‘What sort of breed is it?’
Mark proceeded to give me details of the dog’s unusual breed and pedigree, its very high cost and its naughty habits. I looked at the miserable dog, trembling at Mark’s ankles. Could that pathetic creature really take food from his plate, hide socks behind chairs, open his mail?
Mark’s face — pale skin, high cheek bones, square jaw, thin lips, fine nose slightly crooked, blue eyes under pale brows overhung with wispy greying hair — took on an aggrieved air. ‘That woman at the end of the terrace has accused me of letting Peter shit on her lawn. Huh, I told her, I take my dog out for a walk every day. It’s her own dog doing it, not mine.’
His countenance took on a conspiratorial look. ‘You know that ice-cream van that comes down the road?’
Who indeed could not recognise its monotonous chimes?
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I’m surprised they get much custom. Most folk keep ice-cream in the freezer.’
‘They sell drugs to kids.’
He was watching for my reaction. Well, I could see the possibilities. ‘Really?’
‘Oh, yes. The police know about it. There’s a copper lives opposite me. He’s keeping an eye on it. That’s not all’ He nodded across the road. ‘That house that was for sale. Criminals have moved in. Police know. They’re doing surveillance.’
I nodded; after all I was aware of dealers pushing drugs in the town. I had recently been involved in a drop-in centre for the town’s youth. One evening, a police officer called in at the centre to warn us of the drug problem, and what to look out for. From then on, my nose was on the alert for wacky baccy. But criminals living in our close-knit area?
Whenever and wherever I met Mark he had a tale to tell me. I guess, spending many hours alone in his cottage with only his little dog and a bottle for company, he was short of intelligent conversation to brighten his day. He loved to be outrageous and so it was really quite difficult to sort truth from lies.
I knew he was a keen horseman and for years had entered races with his big white horse and, at one time, was keen on trotting with a small horse and light trap. That he fractured a leg several times and had received poor settings was obvious by his limp. Maybe part of his reason for drinking was to dull the pain he constantly suffered. Several tales came from his horsy connections.
‘You know Joan Smith, the geography teacher?’
‘Not personally, but I used to see her in the staff room.’ I could have added that I heard her too: she had a loud voice and a raucous laugh. ‘Jolly lady, sat with her smoking colleagues.’
He nodded with an urgency to get on with his tale. ‘She asked me to arrange the transfer of her daughter’s new horse. I turned up at the address given and was told the girl was not there.’ He gave a sort of whinny. ‘She said she had gone to paradise. So I said, “Oh, I am sorry. I’ll call another day”.‘
‘Really, that must have been rather embarrassing for you,’ but I was wondering if he was having me on.
‘Well, Joan was in the staff room the following day, so I asked her what she wanted doing with the horse. She told me her daughter wanted it taking to the field as instructed.’ He snorted with laughter. ‘Paradise is a place just up the road from where they live!’
I guess that tale could be genuine, or did he dream it up? At least he made me smile and perhaps that was all he wanted. Another tale he told me concerned a member of the royal family and a horse-and-trap race across Morecambe Bay. Evidently he accidentally messed up the start of the race, which earned him an unmentionable comment from the royal personage taking part. Mark looked deeply aggrieved.
‘I don’t care who he is, I told him even my father never spoke to me like that. And I wasn’t going to take it from him either.’
‘Good for you, Mark.’ Knowing that his temper had once led him to punching the parent of a boy he once taught, I found it easy to believe what he was telling me, but was I gullible old fool? I have heard of the Duke of Edinburgh driving a coach and horses across the sands but I have not found any evidence of horse and trap races, never mind His Royal Highness taking part.
Relaxing in my chair my mind took me back to the year, 1979. Three schools — girls’ grammar, boys’ grammar and a down-at-heel secondary — had come together to form a comprehensive establishment of fifteen hundred souls. Few people seemed happy about it. A few teachers gained but most lost out; the youngsters from the secondary school were convinced the ‘posh lot’ hated them; and the grammar kids were not keen to mix with that ‘lot from down the road’. Only the boys gained some satisfaction — girls galore! The parents of the grammar pupils had been promised separate streaming for their children where their education would continue until leaving at sixteen. Although the form classes were mixed, the pupils kept to their own social groups and then went off to be taught as before. Unfortunately, some teachers considered those from the secondary school as being unworthy of their time. Mark was not one of them.
His aloofness stood him out from the rest of the staff. He had little to say at meetings. Mark had made it clear to me that, although he was on a scale two, he had no intention of doing more than a scale one because he had not been given a position of responsibility. Evidently the extra scale applied to when he served in a different department — teaching biology. But since he had a degree from a top College of Art and had designed furniture on a commercial basis, I was surprised he was not a departmental head within the Comprehensive system. That is, until I got to know him better.
Whatever skills Mark had, and they were many, he was a very poor communicator where adults were concerned. It was some years later that I discovered his adeptness at telling lies. Even then I tended to take him at his face value.
Of course, he often annoyed me when, on taking an art class after him, I found the room untidy, the sink full of filthy brushes, no stock in the cupboard and, quite often, no drawing paper because he has used it all for his pupils to make sketch pads in bookbinding lessons. Not only that, but he copied some of my carefully thought up ideas for art classes. Even so, for whatever reason, I liked the man. Maybe it was because, when he did speak, he was not afraid to say what he thought. He was stubborn and could be incredibly witty: his guffaw creasing his face into a quirky smile. Also, the fact that he did find my ideas good enough to use with his own pupils boosted my ego; after all, I did not have his training or qualifications.
The day I retired from teaching, I was formally handed cards, flowers and a gift from the staff, but the thing I treasured more than anything was the simple present left on my desk. A single white rose stuck on a homemade card — a flying dove cut out of white cartridge paper — with Mark’s name and best wishes inside. I was deeply touched.
It was some years before I saw Mark again. I was surprised to see him on several occasions shopping in Ulverston. I recognised his lumbering gait before I saw his rugged unshaven face. But on each occasion, he was across the road and walking too quickly for me to catch him up. A few weeks later, I actually met him face to face. He told me that his mother had died and that he was moving out of Barrow to live in Ulverston, but he did not have time to go into details. So when I saw him enter a house just around the corner from us, I was pleasantly surprised. He saw me and invited me into his cottage to show me the improvements taking place. I invited him to my home for a chat when he had a free evening.
It wasn’t long before he was ringing our doorbell. I was pleased to see him.
‘Come in, Mark. We’ll go in the small sitting room; it’s quiet in there. Do you want a coffee?’ He declined: he’d only come for a brief chat.
So he sat on one of our vintage armchairs and made himself comfy. He had a way of wriggling into a chair as though shaping it to fit his body. Having settled into the seat, he sat back, shuffled his shoulders, crossed his legs and placed both hands on the top knee. He looked around the room, twitching his loose foot and occasionally jerking a shoulder. I could imagine him thinking, ‘Nothing Andy Warhol in here.’ He made no comment on my pleasant collection of Heaton Cooper prints — not his style.
I sat close by with my armchair at an angle — distant enough to be non-threatening but easy enough to converse eye to eye should he wish to do so. I gave him a few moments to take in the relaxing decor of the room: neutral pastel colours of walls, carpet and curtains with little splashes of colour introduced in cushions and pictures.
‘So, what made you move to Ulverston?’
He began by telling me about the trouble he’d had with his neighbours. ‘I like a garden that grows naturally — wild like.’ I nodded in acceptance, but thinking I was glad he wasn’t living next to us. ‘They complained about the tree growing in my garden. None of their business. I wasn’t getting it pruned back, it would have ruined it.’
And so he continued chatting, telling me about his search for a house and the need to have somewhere for his horse. The tiny cottage he had just acquired had cost him £19,000 and he was busy with alterations to give a more spacious feel to the place. He now had a gas fire set in the wall above floor level. ‘I’m giving it a black surround to match the furniture. Call in and see what you think.’
After a while he started shuffling in his chair and fidgeting with his hands. He looked at me and opened his mouth to say something then changed his mind. ‘I was going to tell you about…but no, better not…’ He shuffled some more. ‘Yes, I will tell you. I can trust you not to tell anyone else.’
Then began an extraordinary tale about receiving a letter from a woman he had known in his student days, who, at the time of writing, was dying of cancer. According to Mark, she wanted him to know that he had a son, and that he was also a grandfather. He then told me about the money his mother had taken from him every month, and of his wondering what she had done with it all, especially since she had died almost penniless. ‘Unknown to me,’ he said, ‘I had been keeping my son at Winchester. He’s a consultant surgeon now.’
He told me how his parents had decided he was too young to marry his student girlfriend and so kept their knowledge about the baby to themselves. Evidently the girl’s parents had been in touch with them and it had been a joint decision: presumably the girl had acquiesced to her parents taking over the baby’s welfare. Well, knowing things were different years ago, it was not difficult to believe the story, especially as Mark was going to show me a photograph of his grandson when I called at his house.
The photograph was of a handsome young boy, dressed in a riding outfit and astride a fine-looking horse. The fact that it was a black and white photograph was explained as having been snapped for a newspaper, his son being the winner of a prize. That was the first of many tales about his family. I saw no other photos but I refused to be suspicious.
Mark’s son had moved to New York but came over occasionally as he was following up a few of his important cases. I was told about a boy’s big toe being amputated to form a missing thumb and the complications resulting from the procedure, and of other tricky operations that his son specialised in. Do consultants really travel across oceans to follow up their cases?
Evidently the family visited him occasionally but did not stay long. They wanted him to go and live with them in New York. Mark said that he had visited the place and was not sure that he would be happy there. He told me quite a few stories of a private nature, but the one that sticks out in my mind because I can see it starkly in black and white, concerns the parentage of father, son and grandson. The three males were taking a walk together; each was dressed in black coat and black woolly hat. Mark said he had to laugh. ‘Look at us,’ I told them, ‘three bastards all dressed alike!’
Mark giggled at the telling of the tale. ‘All of us were born out of wedlock. Not many people know that.’
I felt honoured that he should confide in me. From that time on he often came up with a story about his surgeon son, of which he was very proud, and his grandson that took after his granddad for horsemanship.
Mark was still active: judging at horse trials and still riding. He also had a part-time job lecturing at Lancaster University. He told me that he only had three or four students to tutor: the young men were below standard and needed personal tuition. Mark said he had received a letter from one of the youth’s parents, thanking him for the help her son was receiving. Later he said he had a few hours a week at Edinburgh University. Those were the only times I saw him going out dressed up, walking into to town with brief case and umbrella to catch his train. Most of the time, when he was going down Soutergate to do his bit of shopping, he was unshaven and scruffy-looking. He was just the same when he was walking his nervous little dog.
One Sunday, I met him on my way to church. He stopped for a chat and, much to my surprise, came with me. Then some time later, when I was working in a church some distance away, he came to hear me take Evening Prayer and preach. It so happened that he knew the organist who was studying for a doctorate with the Open University. It was after that event that Mark told me he’d studied to become a doctor, but could not stand the sight of blood and so had to drop out. But he had done well at his London art college, so I decided he was a man of high IQ and many talents. I was not completely aware then of his wonderful talent for lying!
His son’s wife came into the stories occasionally, the two seemed to get on well together, certainly enough for him to be invited to live with them in New York. He told me he was going to stay there for three months to see if he liked it enough to move. He would not give up his home because he would use it for holidays. That seemed a very sensible thing to do, even though he had no idea then that the value of his little cottage would have increased almost fivefold twelve years later.
Other people came into his tales. He told me that a friend of his son was staying at his house while doing work at Glaxo. But I never saw anyone going in, or coming out of Mark’s house — including his family. No cars parked outside either, but maybe his visitors used the train. In fact, there could be an explanation for any oddity in Mark’s stories. Even so, when I asked him when he was going for that three months trip to New York he looked puzzled and needed reminding of what he’d told me. Also, why didn’t his close neighbours know anything about his family? And, why did they all think of him as a teller of porkies? As to Mark’s drinking and tramp-like appearance, had the man been a spinner of yarns to hide a sad and lonely existence? Well, the funeral would surely come up with answers about his family — or lack of it.
Life went on in the town without Mark but I sometimes saw a figure and thought, ‘Oh, there’s Mark,’ until realising I was mistaken — a common happening with people who have made a deep impression before their death.
We were away when the funeral had finally taken place. I did not make enquiries as to who was present: I decided to leave my memories of Mark intact. Mark is dead, but for me he will live on as the warm colourful character I knew him to be.
Or would I rather not know that I am a gullible fool?
Years later, and I still miss him. I ‘see’ him down the road and walking the footpath. He was part of my landscape and I guess he always will be.

Gill Banks

The stream at Gill Banks where Mark walked.

The Man Who Told Lies is published in Northern Lights, an anthology published by Magpies Nest Publishing — visit the publishing site for more extracts from the book

Gill path seat

Is Mark still here?

Ernie Johnson’s masterpiece — The BOOKHOUSE

July 24, 2009

Ernie Johnson’s masterpiece — The BOOKHOUSE
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I say ‘masterpiece’, because I consider the BOOKHOUSE to be a true work of art — creative, tasteful and incredibly well put together. Ernie is a craftsman of the Internet. But not only that but a philanthropist to authors looking to showcase their books.

Being a clumsy, computer illiterate, I admire anyone with skills and knowledge of computer language. Unfortunately, many web sites employ so many gimics and bizarre flashing items in clashing colours, that they are a ‘turn off’ as far as I am concerned. Just because things are available does not mean that all of them have to be employed — to the detriment of the essential contents.

A visit to the BOOKHOUSE is like entering a well-ordered bookstore or library where the genre you are seeking is there ready and waiting, clearly ordered. Here – at the click of the mouse – we see the latest books by new authors. All of them potential best sellers. Book covers, reviews or synopsis reveal each books contents, plus where they can be purchased. You can even have a chat with one of the authors on certain days.

Take a look at the BOOKHOUSE

And my page there.

Maybe you should be there too?

Late 1940’s Factory Life — Training To Be A Designer

July 21, 2009

This is the third part of the story of my design training and growing up into an adult.
That first day at work was painful on my hands. The cutting shears were huge and my hands fairly small and tender. The pressure on the ball of my thumb caused by the unyielding metal as it sliced through several thicknesses of fabric, was unrelenting. Binding the the thumb and finger grips may have softened things a little but it did not stop blisters forming.
The constant noise of heavy machinery above and below that huge room, as well as in the room itself, was like nothing I had ever before experienced. Noise of tanks going along the road and shaking the house was about the nearest thing but that was just an occasional occurrence, this noise only ceased when the workers stopped for lunch.
The room — almost a whole floor of the huge factory — was dull except next to the dirty windows. Plenty of lighting over work benches though. A smell of oil pervaded everywhere. The floor was worn and shiny from many years of use. Shiny knots and heavy grain in the wood stood out of the floorboards, not enough to trip us up but showing the factory’s age like the wrinkled and gnarled faces of some of the aged workers. Many of those employees had spent the whole of their working lives at that factory.
By the time I arrived home on that first day, I felt incredibly weary. My hands hurt and my feet ached. Everything had been so new to me. All my ideas about dress designing had been completely at odds with what I had experienced that day. I may have been staff, but to start with I was part of the workforce. The girls on the cutting bench were lovely, but I felt alone and gauche when talking to the staff. At lunchtime, the office girl took me down to the canteen to have lunch with her. Morning snack with the work-girls, then all change at lunchtime. I ate my pudding with a spoon. She ate it with a fork and spoon. We had nothing in common to talk about. She talked posh and had a boyfriend about twenty years her senior. I was back with the girls on my own level after lunchtime. Well, not really on my level because they were more sophisticated and knowledgeable about life as well as their jobs. (That is where I found out a lot about sex!) I felt everyone was laughing at me. Since I blushed easily, they had cause to.
It sounds daft now, maybe because my perception of life has radically changed. I was young and vulnerable in those days. I had never been away from home and even the girls at college, during my short time there, seemed above my ‘station’ in life. I had been the only girl at school without a navy gabardine coat (I only had a second-hand pea-green coat), and patches stitched over cracks in the uppers of my shoes had marked me out as a poor child. But I started work in the factory wearing a jumper and skirt I bought with my pay from the six weeks’ job I had before getting the trainee designer position. Even so, I was aware of poverty. Poverty had brought about humiliating experiences and they could not easily be dismissed from my memory.
So the evening of that first day of working in that factory, weary and disillusioned I cried myself to sleep. What had I expected? Bright offices and pleasant workrooms with genteel ladies working on individual garments. My mother wanted to know why I was crying but I could not tell her. I did not really know myself.
Teasing over blushing went on, but I settled in. Eventually I kicked the overseer on the shin because he refused to stop rubbing the knuckle of his thumb down my spine. Okay, so he called me ‘a nasty little bitch’ but he never did it again.
I became friendly with one of the cutters — May, a girl six feet in height and a big welcoming smile.
Joan, a young woman, was head cutter. She also modelled the new designs. A lovely friendly girl, she invited May and me to her twenty-first birthday party. I remember we had a lot to drink, mostly stuff like cherry brandy but also gin and lime. I stayed the night at May’s house. We had more to drink before we went to bed. Her younger brother was still up. He drank too, turned a greenish grey (I had never seen anyone turn that colour before) and threw up in the sink. Us? We ate a few large pickled onions, dropped a few and picked them up — likely with fluff attached — ate them and went to bed. We had a good night’s sleep and I went home the next day, fit and happy.
More of my adventures with May later.

1949 fashion sketches for Awakening Love

February 24, 2009
June goes dancing

June goes dancing

I made this dress in 1949 for the Nottingham Arts Ball. The year before I had to borrow a dress — a horrid green bridesmaid dress. My red sandals were painted red by my dad — a tack was sticking out and laddered my stockings! No one asked me to dance and I had a lousy time! But the year after when I wore this pink dress (I had just enough money to buy some material by then) I had a great evening. I had a partner for every dance and one of them became my boyfriend for about six months. he was in  the air force and his home was in Glasgow. He was a heavy drinker and only wanted one thing (which he didn’t get!) so I was not unhappy to end the relationship

Young June in her home-made ballet dress

Young June in her home-made ballet dress

Evening-dress 1949 June Armstrong design!

Evening-dress 1949 June Armstrong design!

1949 Outfit by June Armstrong — Awakening Love

1949 Outfit by June Armstrong — Awakening Love

Awakening Love -  June Armstrong design 1949

Awakening Love – June Armstrong nightdress design 1949

Thinking of getting a trailer video for Awakening Love. I found some designs I did in 1949 — exactly right (to the year) for my book. I found an old photo about right for June (lead character) and tried my hand at sketching June in her home-made ballet dress (witnessing her trying it on sparks off Arthur’s desire for her).

These designs were done on black paper with a fine brush and paint. In those days it was the fashion to have a nippy waist (my waist refused to be nippy!) This dress is the one I made for myself.

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Dressing gown

Dressing gown

Slip

Slip

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The whole trilogy — Awakening Love,

Seduction, and Checkmate —

now to be published by Turquoise Morning Press

What a Difference Promotion Can Make!

February 20, 2009

Today I had my book Awakening Love (Stonehedge Publishing Ebook version) showcased at http://authorsandtheirbooks.blogspot.com by author Ernie Johnson.
There is a picture of the book cover and another of the author, plus a good snappy synopsis and one of the places to buy. 
The synopsis reveals why the locket on the cover picture is highly relevant. 
Visit http://www.ernierjohnson.net to find out more about this remarkable Ernie Johnson with his vast range of activities.

Not only that, but When Angels Lie (AG Press) is featured on http://bookeventcenter.ning.com. Carol, Author 101, is another remarkable author. She has showcased a great assortment of books by lesser known authors which are available on Amazon. It is worth taking a look. if you are an author in need of a good bit of publicity how about joining us?

Here is the synopsis for Awakening Love:
A tale of love, lust and passionate desire, authentically set in late 1940’s class-conscious Britain. Innocent, naive teenager, June Armstrong is determined to rise above her working class roots and succeed as a top dress designer. Her sexuality is dramatically awakened by war hero, and socially advantaged, Major Arthur Rogers (retired), twenty years her senior. The relationship, sealed by a gift of a locket containing a diamond for an engagement ring, is to be kept secret until June is eighteen. Various events, involving his family, job prospects and unforeseen factors to do with affairs of the heart, prove to be a challenge to their relationship.
Arthur’s ‘ladies man’ brother, Charles, is also in love with June but ruins his chances when he sexually assaults her. June becomes the catalyst for his remarkable redemption. She finds herself falling in love with the “new Charlie” when Arthur is abroad on business. Out of love for his brother and June, Charles withdraws from the blossoming relationship and returns to the Royal Navy.
But first Charles helps June gain employment as a trainee designer. Her boss and mentor — dynamic, sexy entrepreneur, Robert Watson — realises June’s potential and sweeps her along on a tidal wave of ambition. He has plans for a totally new business and she is to be his lynch pin. June is mesmerised by both Watson’s charisma and his renowned erotic sexuality (which she inadvertently witnesses in the stock room). 
Robert Watson’s ability to draw out June’s creative genius eventually creates a bond, dangerous but thrilling, which he ruthlessly exploits — to the full!

Awakening Love is twice award winner!

Doom and Gloom? Look for the rainbow!

February 4, 2009

 

Promise of light in the darkness

Promise of light in the darkness

When skies are dark with rain clouds, I look for rainbows.

 

 

Dark sky, bright rainbow

Dark sky, bright rainbow

Like many people of our generation who were taught to live within their means, we have never overreached ourselves when buying anything.. In our day, not for nothing did Building Societies only loan what a single person could afford to pay back. The rapid rise in house prices followed by repossessions has been the ultimate price of careless lending.

 

The present situation was bound to happen. It is sad for those who will lose their jobs and homes, and how infuriating that the bankers and financiers who brought the situation about get even more millions in unearned bonuses. Would we pay a bonus to a shoddy builder if a new roof fell in?

And yet, all is NOT doom and gloom unless WE allow it to be so. It is our own attitude to present circumstances that determine whether we look for, and grasp, unforeseen opportunities to work things out for the better. This we owe to ourselves and to all who will have to pay for the country’s growing debt.

It was redundancy years ago that brought us to our present location. Very many job applications all over the country came to nought until one was offered in what most people seemed to think was beyond civilisation! (But to me, a paradise!) Things were tough for various reasons I will not go into, But, we all thrived and the family did far better than we could possibly have envisaged. Yes, money was in short supply but not for the first time. I knew how to create tasty dishes on a low budget and I could sew. We never did go in for foreign holidays so nothing missing there.  We were blessed with a utility type caravan and that ensured us reaching beautiful places in Scotland each year with visits to Wales and the West Country occasionally. When things improved, we continued to live within our means — only too aware that times could not always be financially good. The country has had several lean times since then but people never seem to learn — buy now, pay later with interest!

The piper always has to be paid.

http://www.magpiesnestpublishing.co.uk

http://writingforjoy.blogspot.com

When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes

November 28, 2008

 

A rare collectable?

A rare collectable?

It is very gratifying to still receive an order from Gardners this morning for my little book of childhood memories 1939-53 “When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red boxes”. It was published over four years ago and once I got down to a few copies out of the 750 run I stopped trying to sell them as I was hoping that ‘something would turn up’ that might get a major publisher interested. This would be truly wonderful as any money made on that book has been promised to Save the Children Fund. (Well over £1,000 has been donated already). Now down to two spare copies, I decided to see if any second hand ones might be available. Looking on Amazon I find two Americans are selling that book – one for £145 and the other £143. Has my little book become “rare” and collectable?

Visit Magpies Nest Publishing for details of that book and my others (two in pen names)