The story of a beautiful, mysterious woman, a gambling debt and a grouse shoot. Featuring Harry Paterson, the main character from my debut novel The Desolate Garden.
What can restrict one’s imagination?
Could it be fear, or the realisation
That before success, comes many a decline
Into the abyss that critics define
Failure is a word of which many approve.
It saves them from rising
And trying to prove
What others attempt, when lifting their head
Into that den where critics are fed!
We stride a path lined by few friends,
But maligned by enemies who only lend
An ear to what they miss between a line
That for their ugliness is impossible to find.
Failure, Success! What difference does it make
To those who have never made a mistake?
Become a critic, it’s an easy thing to do.
But please allow me to ridicule YOU!
When I was about seven or eight years of age, a boy, some three or four years older than I and much bigger, snatched my prized ‘Davy Crockett’ hat from my head and ran off with it. I chased after him, grabbed him by the shoulders, spun him around and landed two punches. One landed squarely on his nose, which then bled, and I retrieved my hat. Neither he, nor his friends, ever bothered me again.
From that early age I grew up a very self-reliant person, never asking anyone to fight my battles for me. I became, at both my Junior School and at Grammar School, the defender of the bullied, willingly standing up against many on behalf of those less strong. That attitude of complete confidence stayed with me throughout my varied life, even carrying me through the fights that I lost, but it was shattered eight years ago in London.
I am a licensed London taxi driver and was at work that fateful day, stopped at a red traffic light when a van ran into the side of my cab. Although I was admitted into St. Thomas’s Hospital and kept there for a time, it was not the physical injuries that troubled me in the next three and half years, it was from mental pain that I suffered. I was clinically diagnosed as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, seeing a multitude of psychiatrists, psychologists, physiotherapists as well as a neurologist and, of course, my general practitioner.
One thing that I never told any of those professionals was that at the time of the accident I saw death, and heard it speak.
Having been a Police Officer I knew that I had to give my name at the scene of the accident, and it was with this on my mind when I saw that apparition. As I was trying to get out of my cab I saw a bright white light with an indistinguishable face in the centre. The voice said to me, “ You don’t have to bother, I already know your name.” What frightened me from telling this, at all the therapy sessions I attended, was the stigma of suffering from a mental disorder that would, I imagined, been diagnosed worse had I of done so. I kept it a secret, but it bothered me.
I had many sessions of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, (CBT) whilst on prescribed medicine never, as I say, telling the full truth, but it was one question in particular that made me sit-up and think:
“If your car was scratched, would you throw it away?”
That was me. I was scratched but wanted to end it all by throwing my life away. I had seriously thought along those lines. The realisation that not all was worthless about myself slowly led to a recovery, via three months of sheer hell coming off an addiction to pain killers. It was either that, or morphine for the rest of my life the neurologist told me. I saw countless psychiatrists, as antidepressants were prescribed in varying degrees of dosage. I saw private psychologists, some, I’m sure, interested more in money than cure. Through it all my doctor was my professional pillar of strength, as was all that I saw in the good old National Health Service, and it was she, and those, who got me on the course of Eye Movement Desensitisation Routine (EMDR) that helped to cured me.
I don’t believe that it was purely medication nor therapy that led to recovery, but a combination of both certainly helped, along with the acceptance that life had changed. What did it for me was finally coming to terms with my vulnerability. I was not superhuman after all and could not walk through walls, but I could fight this sickness. I did, and I won. If I can, then so can you!
I have come across many people who suffer as I did, and it’s that stigma that sometimes holds us back from admitting that we need help to recover. Talking is a cure, not simply comparing ourselves with others, each pain is separate; purely personnel and hurting. Each day, trying to do what could not be done yesterday helps. Believe you can do it, and eventually you will.
Joining social groups is a huge task to come to terms with, but it will help. Ones that share an interest of yours, be it reading, knitting or talking about films, anything that you can involve yourself in. The internet may seem imposing, but it’s full of people who are searching for peace of mind, and others to communicate with.
Blogging is another way to connect. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling, and don’t worry about saying silly things, just get out there and mingle. Let others help you to restore your faith in your own ability.
There is no overnight cure for depression nor anxiety, but you will come through it. It will be you who drags yourself to recovery. On the other side of those dark forbidding days is not utopia, that doesn’t exist, real life awaits with all the problems that brings. You have been to hell and lived through it, what can life throw at you now?
Have you been sad long enough? Get better; and rejoice that you are on the road to being well again. Good luck to you.
I saw the face of death once, in the centre of a dazzling light. “I know your name” it said, “but I will not ask for it tonight.
No need to worry my friend, your time has not come around. When it does, I will come silently, I will not make a sound.
There is no need to fear me as you cannot escape my name. You were born, you lived, it’s not me, but life that you must blame!”
Hector and Helen were reclining on the bed, the night preceding their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
They were not tired, having had an afternoon nap which was another shared habit. They were set in their ways and comfortable with each other.
The years had been kind to them both, blessing them with three children and now four grandchildren all of whom were well and prospering nicely, never burdening the pair with too many problems. Life was rosy, an onlooker would say, but there was a worry on Hector’s mind, and it needed airing.
Without preamble or warning he broached the subject with his wife.
“Helen, there has been something on my mind for quite sometime, and I would greatly appreciate an honest answer to a question of mine.” He was, by vocation, a poet and a painter and those skills were predominant in all his conversation and mode in life; it had rhythm, depth and colour.
At the beginning of their relationship these innate subtleties had been what had caught and attracted Helen to his side. Those early days, however, had not been easy financially on either of them, but thankfully his talent had been eventually recognized and her part-time job as a secretary had long disappeared, allowing her plenty of free time.
Where Hector had retained his athletic build over the years by firm application of a strict diet and exercise regime, Helen had drifted from a petite alluring woman into a wholesome hearty soul, voluptuous and comely. Where once, perhaps, was modesty and shyness, now there was assertiveness and confidence. She lay with her eyes closed, slightly unsettled by her husband’s remark.
“What is my dear?’ she asked in a concerned tone raising herself, and resting her head on a bent left arm. He remained in a prone position eyes fixed on the ceiling.
“I want an honest answer, of that I must insist. I beg you not to try to get out of it, or in any way resist.” He was interrupted before he could finish.
“Oh dear this does sound important. Please ask away.” He frowned, disapprovingly, which did not go unnoticed by his wife.
“I want to know if you have been unfaithful to me during these years that we have been together Helen. Do not prevaricate, and worry not about any tears that your disclosure may bring to the canvas that is my face. I will be brave and confront the disgrace.”
“Hmm,” she replied thoughtfully, adding quickly, “I’m surprised that you ask, and upset by what you refer to as a disgrace. However, I have been, as you call it; unfaithful.”
A glistening in Hector’s eye could now be seen, but courage and tenacity fought back, quickly regaining his composure. “Tell me my love, and tell it true, nothing else from you will do.” He had lost some of the previous bravado and now a degree of brevity had replaced his poetic prose.
“The first time was shortly after we were married.” She confessed, pausing to reflect on the tear forming in the corner of her husband’s right eye. “We were in trouble with the mortgage if you can remember back to those far distant days. It was before your first exhibition at the Royal Institute. The bank had rung and threaten closure with repossession of our home.” He nodded, adding quietly “go on.” (Sometimes he thought before he spoke)
Helen sighed deeply and swallowed hard. “The next day the bank manager telephoned and spoke to you if you recall.” It was, of course, a rhetorical question and as such no need of a pause. “He gave you an extension, but never offered a reason. You were surprised, and yet so relieved that it was a joy to see. It made what I done; justified, I guess. At least in my own mind. That was my first act of unfaithfulness.”
“There was another time Helen, but why? In a way I’m grateful about the bank but why another?” The tear had disappeared, leaving a deep, disturbing sadness existing in his heart. His poetic phrases had abandoned him. Now only an emptiness in his stomach and soul prevailed. He sat upright, staring into the brown vacant eyes of his wife.
“There was Hector, but must I go on and bring misery into this house?”
“Yes, again I must insist. Tell me the truth and don’t save my blushes, don’t paint the story with colored brushes.” (He couldn’t stop himself. Once a poet always a poet as they say)
“It was a few months after the bank incident. You were ill in 1976, the February, it was so cold. You had that terrible chest infection with heart complications and we had no money for the operation that was so desperately needed. You nearly died Hector. How do you think you got that operation the next day? Did you not notice the smile on the surgeon’s face?”
“Come to think about it, I do.That was your doing then Helen?” he said loudly. “You sacrificed yourself to save my life? What can I say? I was in a false paradise, now I am lost. I should be the one paying the great cost, instead of which I sit here and judge. How could I ever hold against you such a grudge?” (Shame really, wasn’t it?) Full of remorse and almost being sick of his own verbosity, he lent across to take hold of his wife and caress away her guilt. But she halted him.
“Before you fully forgive me, there was another time.” Her eyes never faltered, never averting her gaze. To Hector, his wife’s virtue was solid and still intact and he could accept whatever the reason that had led to her waywardness, after all, he silently mused ‘it must have been done for my benefit.’ He rose to the occasion. (Not literally, he was still sitting. Don’t get too far in front of me please)
“Oh Helen, oh Helen I love you so much, that nothing you’ve done that could ever touch or damage the thread that holds us so dear. Speak on my love, do not fear.” (I should explain at this stage that Hector was never paid for any poem that he wrote, and he did write thousands the poor chap)
“Well, this is a bit delicate Hector. First you must understand that all I’ve ever done was to put your interests before my own. You do understand that don’t you?” With a grave voice she asked. He nodded his head in agreement with great enthusiasm sure in the knowledge that it must have been an act of pure unselfishness and self-sacrifice on the altar of love. She breathed deeply before beginning her final revelation.
“It concerns your love of golf Hector. I just knew that once you had started, it would bring you so much happiness and delight that your paintings would radiate with great conviction and power, as they do my love! It has been noted and spoke of. You yourself have remarked just how more refined and colourful they are.” He was like a nodding toy dog on the back shelf of a car.
“Yes, yes, go on I beg you.”
“You see, I opened your application when it came back from the Golf Club. I just couldn’t wait to break the good news to you. You do so enjoy it there Hector don’t you?” Another nod accompanied by: “Most certainly I do my love, do carry on. What has that returned letter to do with anything?” He was nearing a climatic explosion.
He didn’t have to wait long…..
“It had one hundred and sixty-three signatures added to the rejection column Hector.”
Thanks go to Renee Bernard and Vonda Norwood for their past six month participation in composing this humorous tale. A special ‘thank you’ goes to Tracey Edges for abandoning all sanity in allowing her name to be associated with it.
The link to all the previous episodes published in Female First magazine.
Letter to Aunt Alice.
Hello Auntie, Spot here. How on earth are you?
I sincerely hope the ‘waters’ are to your satisfaction, but I would have thought that in the Lake District, at this time of year, a mite cold. However, over the years of our fantabulous (aren’t you pleased I found that word in my dictionary!) association I have come to understand just how solid your constitution must be. You can withstand anything, Auntie! Are you a good swimmer, or merely a splash about and then jump out again one?
Please accept my profuse apologies in not contacting you sooner, but this iPad needed a spot of first aid after my sojourn into the Sahara and then carrying Brenda on the camel charge down Cairo High Street. Everything bounced everywhere. (Don’t you just love that word; profuse. Sounds rather lavish)
It got a bit dented, the iPad that is, and slightly full of sand! It’s all fixed now, so…Hey Ho Silver Lining and Away We Go. I have news, Auntie!
Spot has ventured into the property market. I have acquired a Castle with a name similar to a writer lady that you have mentioned once or twice. Castle Barnard is now mine. I thought, that if I was to make a lasting impression on my beloved Tracey, I needed roots and stability to woo her. I am set in my mind on this matter, Auntie. Not even you can dissuade me. I was very forward thinking in having settled on this particular Castle, because of its two towers. I can place a washing line between them. Tracey can then hang all my smalls next to her’s!
I was well rewarded for recapturing Brenda, and will use the money on the Castle, furnishing the old place befitting a lady of her esteem. The moat needs filling, but there is a hose pipe, also the chain on the drawbridge could do with a stout rubbing with a wire brush, and some oil. Apart from that, and the odd mouse, all seems structurally sound. What do you think, a good idea or what!
She, Tracey that is, is still missing somewhere between the Outer Hebrides and Lands End. Funny that, but quite understandable now that she works for the government. She is something enormous in communications now! She sits on all the boards you know.
Yes, I know that’s a surprise. Was to me too. It was in my email box, but lingering as it were. I missed a few others whilst this damn thing was misbehaving. Of course you know nothing of life insurance offers, free holidays in the sun, or let alone a Molton Brown special deal, but perhaps one day you may. If I manage to get the front lawn of this place back into shape we could play the odd cricket tournament. Get the whole village involved. I’ll put my mind on how to get you transported through time and into this year, as opposed to your dull, unexciting own. How does that sound?
Now, where was I? I do have this bad habit of forgetting where I was, and waffling on a bit. Note to self; pay more attention to my lessons when Tracey takes control.
Ah yes, that email from my heart-throb. Apparently, that Brenda woman managed to escape custody whilst under lock and key in one of our military prisons. Her whereabouts are unknown, but the relevant authorities are examining all the sheep in Wales in a quest to discover if she has returned to that Country, disguising herself in the process. A sharp eye is being kept on all sellers of leeks as well! She cannot have got far. I’m perfectly sure of that.
I was researching the history of Castle Barnard and came across a rather strange mention of it in the local Gazette. A modern reference, but equally as engaging as all that I previously found. The headlines, in the newspaper of three weeks ago, were thus:
Smoking Shoes Found In The Cemetery Of Old Castle Barnard.
The report was somewhat ambiguous, saying that it was a pair of ladies red sparking stilettos, adding that some unidentified metal parts were found as well. Things turned even crazier a few days later when Virgin personnel descended on the cemetery, clearing the weeds around the headstones. Said it was simply an act of benevolence ordered by Richard Branson in conjunction with British Heritage. Busy place! Dickie was infuriated that he was confined to his pickle jar and we had not taken up residence at that time. He would have so loved meeting his brother.
There are many distinguish people buried the Castle’s own graveyard, Auntie. One of them is a Braithwaite. Could be a family relative and possibly another; Spot! Now that would be exciting. I’m going to catalogue their names and write something about them all. Bet you can’t wait to read it!
I intend to follow my path in not only becoming a writer but also being a poet of distinction, during my occupation of the Castle. I’ve done this one, before I even take over the keys.
Rattling bones and crusted thrones,
I come to rule you all.
I intend to walk your battlements,
But do not intend to fall!
I will have to check to see if Wordsworth is buried in the grounds. Have him in stitches if he is!
Now then, I do not wish to become a pest, disturbing your holidays anymore. I shall write to Tracey and tell her of my intentions, as well as update her on progress towards my title of Lord Spot of Barnard. Impressive, what!
Tatty bye for now, Auntie.
Letter to Tracey.
Dearest, beloved, Tracey,
I hope you are seated, and not running yourself ragged on behalf of this Country. Hold on tight to your knobs, radio ones that is, and standby for news of a startling nature. I have not only bought, but now moved into, a Castle!
After our marriage you will become Lady Tracey and I, Lord Spot. Just imagine, that if we had two children we could call them Olive, or Olivier, and Peter, or Pauline, depending on sex of course, and then we would have the initials of another…S.P.O.T. The Spot family! What an enchanting collective alias to have.
I took up residence two weeks ago, and already making preparations for your arrival. It won’t take long. With my now enhanced millions, after the recapture of Brenda, the seventy-nine missing windows and the three thousand-eight hundred odd lost roofing tiles, are being replaced. The moat is slowly filling, but that might take an age, the garden hose pipe is quite small.
Attached to this letter is a new photograph of myself. I recently visited the dentist, having all my front teeth replaced. If you remember, they were a little crooked after the first replacement job when money tight, but that’s not the case anymore. I’m rolling in the stuff. Strange actually that teeth have led to so many of my mishaps, along with such memories.
It was through them that I met my dear Aunt Alice after they were unexplainably knocked out by a female relative of Franz Liszt, called Pugilist, when I simply asked of her if she would have my babies. Then of course, my attempt at temporary repair, by placing small pieces of chewing gum in the holes were like a magnet for that gum sucking Myrtle. That escapade brought me directly to Brenda, from whom, I’m pleased to say, I have now broken free.
Speaking of freedom, my Boys Brigade uniform is on the big side with socks reaching only above my ankles and shorts that balloon outwards, resembling inflated pantaloons, when the wind blows. I’m very proud of my time served in the Brigade and wanted to wear my regalia, toggle and all, on our forthcoming occasion. We must hope that it’s a still day for our wedding! Would you be happier if I had it altered, and bought a new pair of knee-length orange socks?
You will love Castle Barnard, Tracey with all its idiosyncrasies, of that I’m sure.
With luck the squeaking floorboards, which seem more noisier at night, can be silenced, and the moving visors on the suits of armour, that decorate this old place glued down, permanently! They do make a racket after dark. There is a mysterious evaporation process going on as well, which I need to have investigated. Opened pint bottles of milk, that I leave in the fridge overnight, somehow are emptied by daylight. Most peculiar. Could be the mice I suppose, but how do they open the refrigerator door?
The pervading smell of onions will, I’m told, be overtaken by the paint fumes and then disappear forever. There was a room, down in the cellars, packed with rotting leeks of all things. The only explanation is that they could have been carried in by rabbits through the warren of tunnels running under the moat, back into the cemetery! Perhaps you and I can play hide and seek down there, as there are a myriad of rooms that might once have held dead people! That’s where I’m off to, after I finish this letter. The cemetery that is, not the dungeons.
For the past two days a company of men, with digging equipment, have dug a hole about twenty-foot across, and the same distance down. Yesterday they filled it back in, but left the top six-foot empty of soil. I asked them what it was they were up to, but they wouldn’t say. An hour ago a blackened out van arrived with a coffin which was removed, then placed beside that hole by men in long red coats. I’m going to watch what they do.
I hope you enjoyed the dog biscuits I sent to your home address, and Maude, Lucaya and Mabel scoffed away merrily. I shall of course allocate them a room each here.
I have one last wish left, of the three granted by Dickie the genie, so maybe, at sometime in the future, Aunt Alice could be transported into this century, coming to share her life with us in our dream Castle. She might like to live close to a cemetery!
PS. I woke up last night, and thought I heard a moaning noise. Stranger still, I could have sworn that there was a penguin perched on the windowsill.
Your besotted Spot
This maybe of help to someone.
Originally posted on Zero MD:
Olongapo City, Philippines – Ever since the commercial hit local television stations, a lot of my patients have been taking Bioflu as if it was plain old Paracetamol. It is true that it contains 500 mg of the said drug but it also contains two other drugs with significant side effects that affect activities of daily living.
Phenylephrine is the decongestant component of Neozep, Decolgen, Tuseran and Bioflu. It is a vasoconstrictor with no effect on the heart but has a side effect of increasing your blood pressure.
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