DERBY ART MUSEUM

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WENT ALL THE WAY TO DERBY ART MUSEUM TO SEE SOME OF THE CELEBRATED JOSEPH WRIGHT OF DERBY, SAID TO BE THE REMBRANDT OF THE BRITISH ART HISTORY, ONLY TO DISCOVER THAT HIS EXHIBITION WAS CLOSED FOR REFURBISHMENT. THIS WAS THE ONLY WRIGHT PAINTING I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE OF THROUGH THE WINDOW OF THE RESTORATION ROOM.

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VERY DISAPPOINTING TRIP TO THE MUSEUM WAS ONLY RESCUED BY A TRIP THROUGH TO DOVEDALE, AND A DELICIOUS BESPOKE PIE MEAL ON THE WAY BACK AT THE SWAN INN IN DRAYCOTT ON THE CLAY.

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THE PIES HAVE IT! THE PIES HAVE IT!

DALE ‘M’ WE WITH J

AWAKE

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AWAKE

I took a year off. I didn’t want to be beholden. I had so much stuff to sort out in my inner space, I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow these decisions to be influenced by external bodies. I couldn’t work… How could I go back to driving up and down Cheshire every day, when my beloved had been killed by one of the accursed tractor which had long been the bane of my driving days? Each one I met would be a sword in my side. So for three months I took sick pay, went and got a sick note from my friendly doctor, and worked out what next. After months of wrangling, I got access to our bank accounts, to car insurance and life insurance… I had a wad. A back stop. I worked out that I could not afford the rent on our home, the cash would not last long enough. So I gave up my home, my job, my whole life in the old town. I came home. I moved in with my parents and eked out my capital, and lasted a year. I didn’t not claim Universal Credit. I knew that would expect me to attend job search interviews and all the other hoops that you have to jump through and I thought no… I’m not going to have my grief controlled by an external body that does not care a jot about me. Same with Doctors. Once I gave up my job, I didn’t need to see a doctor, although I did need to in reality, I just didn’t want the labels they would give me. Clinically depressed… To add to my bad blood, (too much iron), my chronic back and neck pain, caused by spondalitis and stenosis, and by a crushed vertebrae in my neck, my chronic stomach condition… no doubt made worse by alcohol consumption… It was easier to self-medicate, I had pain killers on script. So tonight I’m awake. I have to go to a doctor tomorrow. Explain everything. It’s daunting. Just like going to the bank last week…

I’m having anxiety attacks. I will explain everything to him/her and they will agree with my prognosis, and hopefully agree I’m not fit to work. Then Friday I will take his sick note to Universal Credit and I will be back in the society, beholden to rules.

I have a plan, or rather we have a plan… because I cannot talk of an I when I am now a we. We will make art together and make whatever we can from that. And we will take trips. Do things as a WE. I have Marie’s blessing, she has orchestrated it… Such is her way.

When she finished with me back in 1977, she arranged for my old girlfriend to come up and look after me. That is/was her way. Bloody control freak! You know what I said to her then?

” I want you! Nobody else!”

Alas and alack… this no longer an option. Janet is my new other. She has played her hand so well, smacked my arse and called me Susan ( private joke). I have been an absolute arsehole the last twelve months, head up my arse, vacillating between tragedy and farce, stuff I can’t say, but she knows anyway… So close.

I’m going back to my painting, but not as a means to shut the noise out of my head, but because it’s what I love, and I will write and even listen to my beloved music collection, which is still so fucking hard, every other song makes me cry.

So I will get out of bed tomorrow, I will go to the doctors, I will face the depression which everyone but me has already accepted. I will go cap in hand to the state, in the hope I can keep my head above water, and I will make my paintings pay. I will go back to Amsterdam, even though it’s Marie’s city, and I will tie it up with a bow and connect it with Bruges and Ypres and wherever else I want to see.

Death is not an option.

Dale beloved of ‘M’ …we to J

MY BEAUTIFUL MARIE (ONE YEAR ON)

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TONIGHT  MY BEAUTIFUL MARIE (TANYA)  WAS KILLED IN A CAR ACCIDENT. I DON’T KNOW HOW I CAN CONTINUE WITHOUT HER.

SHE IS MY SOULMATE AND MADE THE WORLD BEARABLE.

the stars look very different tonight

DALE

ONE YEAR ON

This may seem incredible, but I didn’t anticipate that the anniversary would cause me any kind of emotional turmoil. After all, I’d got through Christmas and New Year relatively unscathed, thanks for the most part to my special girl, Janet, and I stupidly thought I can handle this now. So it came as some surprise that on awakening this morning I could NOT stop crying.  If you would have asked me a year ago how I thought I’d be handling it now, I would have said I wouldn’t still be here!  So that’s progress of sorts. The truth is losing your one and only soul mate, feels like having limbs removed. It doesn’t matter how well you get on with other people or how close they become… They still feel like a prosthetic. This is doubly harsh to both parties… You feel a cad for not being able to accept the difference, and they feel that they can never live up to your expectations. In reality, you do not expect them to be the one you  loved with all your heart, they are not a replacement, but they are a godsend! My Janet has been an absolute Godsend. I do not deserve to have such a wonderful person in my life. She is patient, supportive, strong and resilient, even when I mess her about with the mercurial nature of my Affections. One day, I am totally there with her, then the next I feeling guilty because I feel I’m betraying Marie. She has stuck with me through all my moods and melancholia, and remained steadfast. God bless you Janet, please stay in my life. I’m a shell without you.

Grief is what you make it. It can overwhelm you or it can push you forward, So far it has mostly overwhelmed me, for months I painted for eight hours a day, then in spring I fished for eight hours a day… All to stop me reliving the moment over and over again.

I still don’t have normal emotions, still don’t feel like a normal person, mostly I feel numb but try to portray normality. I know it’s not working. Now that my money has almost gone, I have to face up to my toughest challenge. Do I sign on for dole (govt payments) and hand my life over to the vagaries of the state; do I claim sickness, I have major problems with my back and depression, but again that allows the govt to get involved in my life; or do I get a job? Not easy these days, sixty year old’s are not in high demand in the job market.

I hate the idea of the govt. stipulating what hoops I have to jump through to get money to live on, I’d rather work, but the manual work I’ve done since leaving University is no longer an option, and who is going to employ me to do the things I want  to do : Painting, writing or acting?

This is the life I have left, I have to do something, but after a year of naval gazing I’m still no closer to solution.

Roll the dice, make a choice and move on.

love and best wishes to you all.

DALE BELOVED PARTNER OF MARIE

 

CAFE

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I went passed the cafe we went to, on our first time back together… I’d been to your mother’s, to take her xmas presents, and decided to take the dogs for a walk on Cannock Chase… Yes I got lost again, as ever lost in the Black Country, and went passed the cafe where we first shared a tea and bacon sandwich. I had held on to your thigh, and realised that you were the only person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with… It never occurred to me that It would be the rest of your life not mine.

So many reminders… It all comes flooding back, and I think, its less than a month until the anniversary, and it seems so far away, because there are the horrors of Christmas and New Year standing like doormen in front of that date… Three things to get passed all within a fortnight. And my mother is adamant that we should all be happy, no long faces… And I say, but some of us have reasons to have long faces, and she thinks that by force of will she can control all of our moods… and stop the tears. She plans to be the ayatollah of emotion, the Goebbel’s of grins.

She is going to goose step across Christmas, Marshalling our moods with her own inimitable way, drinking gin and tonic!

oh what joy!

Dale ‘M’

GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY

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GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY

There is a moment of time in the regular regime of a hotel in the middle of the afternoon where nothing much is happening. A moment when two young scalawags can safely adventure towards mischief. This was such a time. Having been invited back to the Hotel for tea, by the son of the owner, we wheedled our way up from the Friary, our school, to the citadel of the hotel, which crested the hill about a half mile distant. Chris, the son of the hotelier, had recently become a close bosom friend. As was the nature of schoolboy alliances, it was not a long lived dalliance, we lived too far away from each other to become regular buddies… But my butterfly nature made it difficult to maintain a regular best friend… I got bored easily! So this trip to the Cathedral Walk Hotel was a novelty, a new experience for me. At the age of twelve, this was my first visit to a hotel in this country… and only my second visit to a hotel in all my days. The first had been in Spain, where I had learned a valuable lesson… Spaniards had a penchant for cute Blond boys, I had been able to get pretty much whatever wanted from the staff, cokes, ice-creams, sweets whatever, all I had to do was smile at them and they would fawn like servants to my every need. A heady reality to a boy of six, which I had exploited for most of the fortnight we were away, until my mother discovered my sophistry, and told me firmly I was not to take treats from strangers… “But Mum, they are not strangers! It’s Pablo and Maria, they work here!”

They are not working all these hours just to provide you with free drinks and Ice creams, young man! If you want a drink or ice cream you wait until we get you one… Don’t exploit the good nature of the staff!”

What does exploit mean?”

It means you are being spoilt, so stop doing it!”

This had taught me a valuable lesson… When you’ve got a good thing going don’t let your parents find out about it!

Back to the Cathedral Walk Hotel. Chris and I trudged around the back of the auspicious facade of building and entered through a side door. His mother sat in their kitchen, drinking tea and eating a large slice of Victoria Sponge. She was a rather round and squat lady, and I felt a little swamped by her mass. She was however, a very pleasant lady and smiled at us. She hugged her son to her and whispered words of endearment which I didn’t understand. She bade us sit around the table and brought out Ginger beer and sandwiches and more cake.

mangia i miei piccoli!”

She left the kitchen to answer a bell, which range from the main foyer.

What did she say? Why does she speak foreign?”

My Mum’s Italian. She said eat my little ones, I think… I’m not totally fluent in Italian.”

That’s so cool, I wish I had an Italian Mother!”

He ate. I ate too. He looked pleased. I had passed an unwritten test. I was not judgemental of his foreign Mother, I’d said it was cool to have an Italian Mother, and though he secretly thought so too… He would never have said it out loud. After tea,Chris had asked if we could go and play up in the unused hotel room, which he had been allowed to use as his playground. He went upstairs to the reception and brought back a big iron key. We walked up the backstairs and snuck along the corridor to the room where he played.

This room was exciting. It had a sink on one side of the large double bed, the first time I’d ever seen a sink in a bedroom. The large wardrobe housed a massive collection of toys and games.

Chris brought out a large board on to which was stuck a subbuteo felt. Subbuteo was a game which was all the rage in the seventies, it allowed boys of a certain bent to recreate the excitement of a football match in the safety of their own bedroom.

The board was set up on the top of the made-up bed and we each chose a team. He chose the blue of Chelsea and I had to make do with the Red team. He didn’t have a team in the colours of my favourite team, Aston Villa. Red would have to be Liverpool. When I told him that my Granddad had been offered professional terms for Aston Villa, before the war, and that he had won an international cap for England as an amateur… Chris had claimed an Italian Uncle who had played for Inter Milan, and been picked for Italy, this too before the war. I wasn’t sure I believed him, but when he said that his uncle had been killed in the war, just had my Grandfather had been, we saw this as a union. We had both lost our claims to fame. His Uncle had been killed in Italy, just as my Grandfather had been… But on opposite sides of the wire!

We played our game of subbuteo… Flicked our players into a stalemate. 2-2.

Where’s the toilet?” I asked, as the ginger beer went straight through me.

You can piss in the sink.” He pointed to the basin beside the bed. I looked at him aghast. The thought of sullying such an innovation as a sink in the bedroom, with my hot piss I felt was sacrilegious.

In the sink?”

Of course, that’s what I always do. Fuck it! It’s easier than walking all the way down to the back kitchen!” Strangely, this was the first time I’d ever heard anyone of our age use the word Fuck! I’d heard it frequently when listening to adults, particularly on the rugby pitch, when I used to watch my Dad playing… but in those days, certain swear words were never uttered by youths. We would certainly use Bloody, or bugger, prat or bastard, and piss was ubiquitous, but the F word was taboo, as was the C word. How time has changed!

I climbed on to the bed and undid my zip.

I can’t do it if your watching.” I manipulated my penis ineffectually. He looked on and smiled, then when he saw my tortuous look of embarrassment, he looked pointedly out of the window.

Ok now, you big baby?”

I answered with a splash on the porcelain.

I zipped away the appendage, and breathed a sigh of relief.

A light went on in the mind of my comrade.

Wait I’ve got something.” He pulled across a wooden chair which lay next to the window, and pressed it close to the wardrobe. He climbed upon the seat and then carefully stood on the wooden back. He reached across to the very back of the wardrobe and pulled out his prize. It was a large flat box. It had a bow across it like a birthday present, and also had a picture of various glasses containing different coloured liquids.

What is it?” I asked innocently.

It’s chocolates… with booze in.”

My jaw dropped. What on earth…

Liquor chocolates, I nicked them from my Granny at Xmas.”

Oh.” At the age of eleven, it had never occurred to me to steal anything from anyone. I wasn’t sure I approved of such behaviour.

Shall we eat them and get drunk?” He asked excitedly.

I looked around the room. What if we were caught?

What if your Mum comes up?”

Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan.” I gulped. I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to get drunk. I’d seen enough of people getting drunk to know that it was not always a pleasant experience.

He pulled me earnestly towards the door. He inched it open and looked around.

Come.” He ran across the corridor. He reached a door at the far end, and put his large key into the lock. He opened the door and beckoned me in quickly. He locked the door behind him.

Where are we going?” I asked.

Where no-one can find us. Quick up the the stairs.”

We climbed the narrow set of stairs and once again he placed his key into the lock of the door at the top. The door was tightly shut and wouldn’t budge when he turned the handle.

Give us a hand, It’s a bit stiff.” He pressed his shoulder to the door and I followed suit. It didn’t budge.We took a run up, pushed and voila… A vista opened before us. The roof. The building had two apexes and between them was a v-shaped space with duckboards. At one end was a brick wall and on the other an opening, which looked down on the houses below. In the distant the three spires of the Cathedral loomed in the sunlight, like religious icons.

Whoa, this is amazing. Is your key magic?”

It’s a skeleton key… It opens all the doors in the hotel.”

I’d like a key like that… Do you think the school has a skeleton key? I’d like to get in to the staff room and see what that’s like…”

I’m pretty sure they must have, probably kept around Miss Stones neck, the way she always pops up unexpectedly… I bet there are secret passages there, just like in this hotel.” I had images flash through my mind… Miss Stone with an old fashioned candlestick, walking through secret passages, spying on all of us boys… It would certainly explain how she always found out about all the naughty things we were up to.

We sat at the far end of the roof, away from prying eyes. He took out one of the chocolates and then offered me one. I took one shaped as a barrel. I watched as he shoved his in his mouth. He looked disgusted… like it tasted of earwax.

Go on… Eat it.” I bit into the inoffensive chocolate, and felt the fiery liquid burning its way down my esphogus, I retched.

Disgusting isn’t it?” Chris smiled across at me.

Positively vile!”.

Think the chocolate might be off. I think it would be better to just bit the end off them, spit the chocolate out and then just drink the liquid.” His advice seemed geometrically opposed to my own point of view… From my experience of the vile tincture, I would have said, bite the chocolate eat it then pour the liquid out and eat the rest.

However, so as not to seem a pussy, I did as instructed, each in turn pulled out a different liquor, and swallowed the tiny portion of alcoholic beverage housed within. I didn’t feel drunk at the end of the experiment, just rather sick. Chris began to act weirdly, as if he was drunk, the placebo effect I now feel, but at the time, I felt that he must be drunk, so I began to act drunk too.

Chris went to the far end of the gully and looked out across the city below…

Of course!” He said.

Of course?” I asked.

Don’t look so worried, I’ve got a plan!”

Oh good, I thought, another plan. To be fair, this adventure on the roof had been exhilarating… Apart from the miniature liquors, which had been ghastly!

We made our way, silent as assassins, back down through the Hotel. We went out through the back of the Hotel into the Car Park.

Quick, let’s get out of here, before anyone stops us.”

We ran down the road, and then he cut into a four storey building just before reaching the BP garage on the opposite side of the road. The door to the building was slightly open and he pushed his way in.

The building was unoccupied. The floors were covered in mess… Not just the mess of an empty building, not just the stale dust of un-use, but an enforced mess… like someone had deliberately been creating chaos. Bits of light fitting had been smashed to the ground, skirting boards had been jemmied from the bottom of the walls, doors had holes smashed through their panels… Intricate plaster architrave had been smashed into a fine chalk dust. Mantle places ripped off and then used to break further fixtures and fittings. This place bore all the hallmarks of acts of vandalism that the local papers had been warning of for many a year.

Chris mistook my look of horror for a look of awe.

I did this. I did all of this. All on my own. Great isn’t it?”

Why?” It was the only question I could think of.

It feels great to break things, really great!”

Why?” Again the only word I could emit.

Because it’s against the rules, I suppose, don’t you ever get fed up of all the rules?”

Not really. If I don’t like rules I just ignore them… I never felt the need to break anything.”

You should try it.” He led me up the stairs to the third floor. He showed me into the bathroom. The sink was intact. The bath had been chipped but with iron at it’s core, Chris had not found a weapon strong enough to damage it further. He pointed to the porcelain sink and proffered a lump of marble from the detritus of the once perfect fire surround.

Go on, Hit it.” He pressed the lump of marble into my hand. Not sure how to progress with the act, I flung the marble into the sink. It bounced around the bowl but did not break it.

For God’s sake, fucking hit it hard on the edge!”

I picked up the lump again and whacked it down on the lip. The basin split without rapture, in two. The metal plug hole cover fell out and the plastic drainage pipe listed forward as if suffering from a superficial flesh wound. Chris giggled like a girl. He ran around, looking for his weapon of choice. He came back with a brick with plaster on it and a piece of electrical wire steadfastly attached to the electrical plug socket housed in the brickwork. He swung the the lump of brick around his head like a medieval flail, and brought it crashing down on the remains of the basin, it splintered into many pieces and crashed in a tumult to the ground.

That’s how you fucking do it, you little pussy!”

All of a sudden he was a dervish, running from room to room, smashing into this and that… Clouds of ancient plaster work created a blizzard across the upper floor, and coughing like miners we ran downstairs. I looked at Chris, and saw that he looked like a ghost.

You look like a ghost!” I said obviously.

So do you.” I looked down at my school uniform and found that he was right. My red blazer was now white. My Grey flannels were also white. My shoes too. I was for it. If I returned home like this, I was certainly for it. Not only was I for it, I’d have to provide some valid excuse for the state I was in. That was beyond me. I couldn’t think of a single plausible reason for being covered in plaster. Maybe I’d been caught out in a board cleaner accident. I’d been asked to clean all the chalk off the school’s board rubbers and some how become covered in the resultant cloud of chalk dust? Couldn’t see my Mum buying that one…

Chris took us back up the backstairs of the Hotel, and back into his play room. Once I was inside, he nipped out across the corridor and raided the linen cupboard. He came back with a couple of large bath towels.

Here, use one of these, wet the corner a bit, then brush the dust off your clothes… See like this.” He took his towels and put a corner under the cold tap. He wet the towel and then rung it out, so that it was only damp. Then he brushed the dust from his clothes. It worked passably.

Don’t have it wet, whatever you do, if its wet it will just form a paste then you will never get it off.”

I looked down at the sink. I looked up at him.

I’ve just pissed in that sink.”

So what? I run the tap didn’t I?”

So I began the process. I ran the tap awhile, just to make sure no piss was still present, then I dampened down a corner of the towel and wiped away all the plaster dust from the front of my clothes. It looked ok, I might just get away with it if I ran straight upstairs when I got in and changed out of my uniform.

Ok Chris I think it’s time I went home.”

You can’t go home yet.”

What fresh hell was he about to unleash on me?

Why not?”

Because both yours and my clothes are covered in plaster on the back.”

Good point. I’d not thought of that.

Tell you what,”He says,”What if I do yours and you do mine?”

Oh, Ok”. I took a fresh corner of the towel and rubbed away the offending plaster from the back of his clothes. Then he began rubbing away the dust from my clothes… He seemed to be very attentive in his ministrations, until I heard a sudden swish, and then a sting on my arse… the wet towel trick!

Ow Pack it in!” I yelped.

I made for the door.

You Can’t go yet.”

What this time?” I’d had enough of his nonsense.

You need to wash your hands and face! Look at yourself!” I looked in the mirror above the sink and saw that I still looked as ashen as a spectre.

Go on wash your hands and face.” He pointed at the sink. The pissing sink…

I walked home in the half light of the evening dusk, and wondered what this experience had been? In the end I came up with a single word… A revelation!

 

DALE ‘M’

QUIET PLEASE COMPLETE STORY

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QUIET PLEASE

The thing about December in the University Library is the fact its empty… Totally devoid of under graduates. It is a place of peace and contemplation, a place where serious study is at last possible. Unlike the normal atmosphere of the Univesity in semester, where one rushes from a lecture to the union then on to a tutorial… Yeah, that’s a lie, the rush is from one excess to another, the lectures and tutorials are the incendentals, the thin layer of intellectual rigour spread evenly across the drinking, the smoking and the fornicating. These are the central tenets of the first years of being an under-graduate. As a 27 year old, who has spent ten years in the real world, working in industry, long hard hours of toil and turpitude, I grasped these tenets like a newly converted zealot. I drank to excess, smoked too much weed, and enjoyed as much female company as I could muster. In effect, I got to be a teenager again.

However, with all of those destractions away for the christmas holidays, spending time actually doing my essays and projects in the peace and quiet of the library, was a total joy. I would travel unto Campus on the bus, the same time as I did in term time. As the Library didn’t open until ten, this gave me an hour in the union cafe, a time to read the Guardian, do the crossword and drink a mug of disgusting coffee… but all in peace. None of the remaining students, the ones who lived on Campus and hadn’t gone home for the hols, would not be up and about until midday at the earliest. Peaceful times.

At ten, I would get up, put the newspaper in my brief case, and toddle off up to the library. In those last years, before everything was on the computers and everyone had mobile phones, the only way to find the information you required, was to read. You had to wade through hundreds of essays, novels and pamphlets… Magazines like New Society, New Scientist etc, you had copies of every newspaper from the year dot on microfiche, which as a sociologist was a goldmine… It was a pleasure to use all these tools, and with the aid of helpful Librarians, you could find information which none of the other students would begin to research. In effect, the time spent alone in the library was probably the most productive time I had in my four years of University education.

At twelve, I piled all my books up and placed them on the end of the desk, with a note that I was coming back and please do not remove them. I put all my papers and notes in my briefcase, and made my way down the circular steps of the library back towards the Union building, looking forward to a hard earned cheese baguette and a cheap pint of lager. At the bottom of the steps I stopped and lit a much needed cigarette, the library was one of the few places on campus where you were not allowed to smoke… Heady days before the anti-smoking fascists took over, these days you can only smoke in a dustbin on the first thursday in september, but in those halycon days you could smoke anywhere, even in the maternity ward of the local hospital!

As I walked across the car park I was passed by a rather beautiful asian girl, who stared and smiled at me as if she knew me. I smiled back, desparately trying to place the girl, was she in one of my tutorials? She passed by, and I continued towards the pigeon holes where our internal mail was placed, it was important to check your pigeon hole at least twice a day, because the individual faculties tended to treat communication as espionage. You were never told anything, but instead got messages written in invisible ink, which you had to decipher with lemon juice and the burn on pain of death.

Well, I might be exaggerating a little, but I had missed re-arranged tutorials and new essay assignments, simply because I hadn’t checked my pigeon hole a second time on a given day. So, it became second nature to check the pigeonhole every time you entered the union building.

As I found nothing for me there, I turned and bumped into the girl of the biggest smile again!

“Sorry… Oh it’s you… Hello… How are You doing?” This was before Friends so I’m claiming the phrase back from Joey.

“Do I know you?” I asked, as her smile and demeanour suggested some previous knowledge of each other.

” I don’t think you remember me, but we have met.”

“Have we? I’m sure I would remember… You.”

” You remember the reading we did of Macbeth in Drama?”

This was not proper drama, I hasten to add, drama was not a faculty or subject allowed in my University, the drama mentioned, was part of the Teacher training faculty, which at the time I was studying concurrently with my proper studies. I gave it up after the first year, because I didn’t want to teach. I was pencilled in to teach English, History and Drama… So I had to attend these Drama classes as part of my teacher training. It was very dull, we were treated like pupils, and led by the nose on how to stand up a play from the page. As I had studied Acting at Drama and Dance School from the age of nine, it was quite run of the mill. When I turned up to the classes, which was not always, I was most often drunk… or at least libated.

When we had stood up Macbeth, I’d played the drunken night watchman, from the beginning of the play, and had hammed it up a little, as it was improvised. The other classmates had fallen about in hysterics, and a terse Tutor had called time on my performance.

I’d neglected to return after the event, as it wasn’t an integral class to the subject, but an extra add on. I’d just dropped out of it. So, the members of that class had not become a permanent fixture in my firmament.

“Were you there? I don’t remember, I’m afraid I was rather drunk.”

“I was supposed to be Lady Macbeth, but you rather stole the scene.”

“I’m terribly sorry, I don’t remember much…”

“Yes, I know, you were rather drunk… I just wanted to thank you!”

” You did, why?”

“I was terrified of playing Lady Macbeth and then your performance brought the place down, and it was never stood up again, so you saved me from that fate.”

“Well you’re very welcome.”

“You were very funny, you should be on the stage.”

“I was drunk, I’m always funny went I’m drunk.”

“Seriously, you look like a filmstar.”

“Who Alan Ladd?” Ok, this needs explaining. Alan Ladd was a famously short filmstar, 5ft 5 inches, from the 40’s and 50’s, exactly the same size as me. You, dear readers will probably not be aware of this fact, given your of a later vintage, and the girl similarly, looked perplexed.

” You know, the American actor who is famously short.”

“Oh, I see, no I never thought of you as short… You act a lot taller!”

——————————————————————

QUIET PLEASE : THE DENOUEMENT

I told the girl that I was just going up to the Union, for a sandwich and a pint, did she want to join me?

She shook her head.

“I’m going out for a walk around the lakes, I need some fresh air, you can join me if you like…”

Given that it was the middle of December and that there was a couple of inches of snow on the ground, and the extra joy of a windchill approaching -5, the thought of walking around the lakes, a good mile and a half in anyone’s money, was of course an absolute delight. I chided myself for being a sucker for an adventure, especially if the adventure involved an interesting young woman. Cock-led, I smiled as if it was the best idea i’d ever heard.

We walked away from the Union, across the main road and down by the side of the old Hall which housed the English Faculty. We walked in silence until out of sight of the Hall and the snow gave out to sludge and then mud as we got closer to the lakes.

I was still carrying my briefcase, and formed an incongruous image, what with briefcase, a bright blue motorcycle leather jacket, jeans and Dr.Marten boots. The girl brought her own picaresque elements to our costume, as she was wearing a long flowing kaftan skirt underneath her Afghan coat… She too wore the obligatory Dr.Martens shoes.

Despite the efficacy of wearing an Afghan goatskin coat in those freezing conditions, the smell of it required someone with extreme confidence in their own personal hygiene to carry it off. Momentarily distracted by the comical false landings of a pair of mallards on the half frozen lake, they had landed like a pair of ice skaters in a free dance routine as they glided across the ice, only to come unstuck when the ice gave way to sludge, and both pitched forward in a most ungainly manner, I hadn’t noticed that the girl was no longer beside me. I turned around in shock, and caught her carefully aimed snowball squarely on the bridge of my nose. My eyes watered, this walk had taken on an unexpected turn of events. I tried to laugh playfully, but it dried in my throat as her next ball caught me smack in the lips. I bent forward gasping. She looked at me as if concerned, bloody woman!

“Are you ok?”

“Of course… cough cough… splutter splutter… I love a snow fight!” I looked around me for snow, but alas and alack, the path next to the lake where I stood, was devoid of snow, only mud lay to hand.

I toyed with the idea of throwing mud at her… But it probably wouldn’t be construed as playful, at best it would seem mean, at worst it could be seen as an assault. I put my hands up.

“Ok, you win.”

“I’ve never seen real snow before.”

“Don’t they have snow where you come from?”

“No, not so much in Tower Hamlets, the city tends to keep snow at bay.”

I laughed… I didn’t know anything about her, but I’d presumed that she was from… somewhere else…

“What is your name?”

“Tee, my friend’s call me Tee.”

“Why do they call you Tee?”

“Because it’s easier than saying Ateebah?”

“Ateebah is a lovely name, what does it mean?”

“it means something that is soft and gentle I think, at least that’s what my mother told me.”

“It suits you.”

“You think? I just smashed snow all over your silly face… Was that soft and gentle?” I pursed my lips. I was not used to losing any competition, verbal or physical, and yet she had me two for two. I would regain my composure somehow… but not yet.

“Do you know my name?”

“Dave or something.”

“Not Dave.”

“It’s something like that, all your names sound the same to me…” Would she rile me? No. But she certainly had me off kilter.

“My name is Dale. Dale Beck.”

“And what does your name mean Dale Beck?”

“It means Valley Brook.”

“So it’s basically a tautology?”

Oh she is good. Very good.

“It suits you.”

“Really how so?”

“Well look at you, you’re all wet!”
She skipped off delightedly, like a little wood nymph. I gave chase, determined to find snow before she did, once caught twice as vicious I thought, pay back would be sweet.

Of course the inevitable happened, my briefcase got caught between my legs and I fell headlong into the mud. My hands flew forward to halt my fall, and I flung my briefcase forward. I lay in the mud, face dripping and aghast watched as my briefcase arced across the path and smashed into a tree. It sprung open and all my notes spread themselves deliciously across the mud.

Tee stopped running and looked as if she was about to erupt into hysterics… You could say I have a natural flair for slapstick… But then replaced the look of glee with a look of actual concern,

“You’re bleeding…”

“My bleeding notes, look covered in bloody mud!”

She looked around to where I gestured and saw my spilt briefcase.

“But you’re bleeding, seriously!”

I rubbed my hand across my temple and found it redden hued,

“I’m always bloody bleeding Tee, I play rugby every weekend! But those notes are the product of a weeks study.”

I got up groggily, and went to the scattered ashes of all my labours. I put the notes, such as they were, back into my briefcase and relocked the open clasps. Luckily, the case wasn’t badly damaged, just a little dent in the lid, and I breathed a sigh of relief. The blood streamed down the side of my face. Tee ran to me and pressed a handkerchief to the wound. As my face was equally smeared in mud as well as blood, she feared the wound might go septic.

“Oh God, Dale look at the fucking state of you!”

“I can’t maybe you can look for me.”

“Quick I’ll take you back to my halls, get you washed up.”

“Where are your halls, Tee?”

The thought of walking half across the campus covered in mud and blood would not do my street cred much good… Even if most of my friends were already away home for the hols.

“They are just across the lake there, we can get to them without going through the campus… Look just there beyong the trees.”

I let her lead me around the lake, taking care not to slip again, because dignity once lost is difficult to regain…. Bloody fool!

She sat me in her small bedroom after removing my coat and boots, and stowing my briefcase behind the small desk she had in the corner. She went off to find a bowl and soapy water… I stood still in her inner sanctum and looked around. I did not wish to muddy her furnishings. As a student, the first thing to attract my attention was her books. She had an array of books with cyrillic script, which given her ethinicity seemed incongruous, she was studying Russian? Along side the incomprehensible Russian texts sat the equally incongruous science text books… I knew something of Astral Physics and Quantum Physics, but her books were on Chemistry, a subject I knew very little about.(Strangely, I ended up doing Chemistry for morons as one of my minors later in my academic life, and managed to scrape a pass… Chemistry for Morons was officially called, Environmental Pollution Protection… and I passed by being able to synthesise the lead from grass from the motorway verges, something to do with spectroscopy I think… As i say it was Chemistry for morons!) She also had the text book written by the Professor of Education at our University, which was required reading on the syllabus… The perks of being a Professor, you get to sell more copies of your interminable doggerel which you call a text book! I had not purchased the book, but rather photocopied the chapter we were required to read each week from the library copy. Waste not want not, I’d already decided I was going to give up education next year, so decided the money saved on the books would be better spent on alcohol!

She returned from the kitchen with a bowl of warm water and dettol. Tee washed me down, and somehow persuaded me to take off my trousers and shirt…

“There covered in mud let me put them in the wash…”

I’d like to say I was embarassed by being in such a state of undress, but being a tart, I didn’t shame easy… I still had a decent physique then… If only now… Oh well. Years of excess take there toll. Worth every extra inch I’d say.

So there I sat, on her bed, in my underpants and socks and totally unabashed. She returned to the room this time with a band-aid for my forehead and a bottle of Peach schnapps for my spirits.

Peach Schnapps is an acquired taste. I acquired it quickly as I emptied the proffered shot glass, whilst she applied the plaster to my inconsequential nick on my head. It was no more than a graze and I felt a fraud letting her minister to my medical needs. When she stepped away to admire her handiwork I put out my shot glass for a refill. She refilled it. And again. And again. I lay sprawled length ways along her single bed. She sat at her small desk. The chat was blurry. I remember reading some poetry to her. She was enchanted. She said she was enchanted. I was not in a position to judge. She could have been faking it. I fell asleep, either through the shock of the loss of blood or by the ministering of an unknown spirit.

When I stirred Tee was lying next to me. She was naked. She had covered us in her duvet. She was very warm and coccooned my body with her own. There seemed to be sme sort of state of arousal going on. I wasn’t sure how much of this state was down to me. A sudden fear.

“Tee how old are you?”

“Nearly twenty.”

“How near?”

“With in a hair’s breath.”

I was alarmed. I didn’t want to compromise myself… She could have been one of those child prodigy’s whose lives are nearly always ruined by being sent to University too soon.

“What’s your date of birth?”

“23rd December 1967″

I tried to do the maths, nearly twenty, nearly eight years younger than myself. Though people might frown, it was not an unacceptable age difference.

I relaxed back unto my back and she gently stroked my taut belly.

“You have a lovely body.” I reached around her and stroked her back. She had skin like velvet.

“So do you.”

She leant forward and kissed me passionately on the lips. She was so hot! Literally as hot as a five bar electric fire.

“Are you too warm?” I was worried she might have a fever.

“You make me hot, you’re a sexy man!”

“Really? With a cut head and mud on my knees, I still look sexy to you?”

“You’ve always looked sexy to me.” Now, bear in mind, I’m a little drunk at this stage, so my normal reactions cannot be relied upon, because given that I had not known of her existence until a couple of hours before, the phrase you always looked sexy to me, might suggest someone who is a bit stalkerish? A bit Kathy Bates in ‘misery’? But I’m drunk and being flattered, which are two of my favourite states to be in, so I don’t take to flight. She is now doing unmentionable things to my manhood with her hand… And judging by her smile, it is having the desired effect. Not to be left out I begin to explore her exquisite body, from head to breasts with my hands, then with my lips… as my hands continue their scouting mission further down… My hand discovers a mound which is erupting like vesuvius… pity poor pompeii! She is awash, more so than any other woman I have ever known…

So we have a perfect chemical bonding here, both elements are liberally prepared for their chemical romance.

I’m about to slide between her thighs when she says something which stops me in my tracks.

“Do you think it will fit?”

“Of course… Why do you ask?”

“It’s my first time.” Those dread words. I’m turned to stone, apart from the required part, which in effect withers on the vine.

“You’re a virgin?”

“Yes, is that ok?”

“No. It’s not, I can’t take your virginity.”

“Why the fuck not?”

“Your first time should be special.”

“You are special, you are the person I chose… I wanted it to be you!”

“You don’t even know me, Tee, I’m a total shit!”

“You’re friends say you are the best lover in the University.”

“Who Does?”

“Judith, she’s in my Russian Studies tutorial. I told her that I wanted to lose my virginity, and she said, I should come and meet you, she said you are amazing, the best she’s ever had!”

“She must have had a sheltered life then, is all I can say…”

“But everything has felt so right today, and you are so nice, even when I snowballed you… It seemed so right. Look at me, I’m crazy for you!” She pulled down the duvet to show her perfect flushed form to me. I was sorely tempted, I mean, who would refuse such an offer? I jumped out of the bed, and reached for my trousers, now folded across the chair beside her desk, She reached around for my cock and pulled it towards her mouth.
“No.” I pulled away.

“Please, Dale, Please Fuck Me Now!” I leant down to her dirty mouth and kissed her passionately.

“My sweet girl,if you get to know me first, spend a couple of months to become full acquainted then maybe I might be able to help you, but not like this, I couldn’t forgive myself if I took advantage of you. I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to take advantage of me. I will just take advantage of you.”

I pulled on the rest of my clothes.

I bent to kiss her cheek. She had tears rolling down them.

“Listen Tee, your a lovely woman, so beautiful I will be berating myself all the way home. It’s not you it’s me… I don’t feel worthy of taking your maidenhood, you need to find a guy to love first…”

“What if I love you?”

“If you love me sweetheart, you will wait a couple of months until we know each other.”

I turned to the door and left.

I stood at the bus stop, very nearly sober, kicking myself for a missed adventure. I berated myself mentally all the way home on the bus. Damning myself for this innate self-loathing. I had always felt the same about virginity… It wasn’t the first time it had happened, but I really did feel that it should be special and with someone you loved. I had lost my virginity at the age of fifteen, behind a shed at the back of a block of flats, a tomcat had pissed on my head from the roof of the shed as I enacted the eternal petit mort… the girl at the time had been incidental, I had not really cared for her, she had not cared for me, it was an itch we both wanted to get over, so we did. I felt guilty afterwards… And had cried into the night. I swore that I would never put anyone through such a tawdry experience again for their first time. And I hadn’t… Damn my eyes!

 

INQUEST

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Coroners verdict was accidental death. I feel this was the right decision. So many things to say, but I’m not going to say them. I feel so sorry to the boy who was driving the tractor, just 21, and to have that accident hanging over him, he looked so young and afraid, and genuinely sorry for what had happened. I was allowed to ask questions, which I found very gratifying, but I didn’t ask him anything… Because I didn’t want to break him. I asked questions of other witnesses and experts, but I didn’t think asking him pertinent questions would have helped me or my beautiful Marie, but would have just made his position worse. Marie and I believed in love, and the power of love,  so I tried to give him our love, and allow him away out of his nightmare.

So that’s it. I have done my best to give my Marie all my love as she moves on into the next adventure. I hope she waits for me, I don’t think I will be long, she tells me time is different in the great beyond. The truth is, with the inquest over, I feel I am now free. I can move on. Obviously, I move on with her with me… She has given me so much love over the years, and made me a better person.

Thanks to everyone who has offered me so much love and support over the last ten months, I don’t think I would have been able to carry on without all that love I felt coming from everyone.

With love

Dale still beloved of ‘M’

THE END

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Today, my ten month nightmare comes to an end. My last act as a loving partner in life, is to bear witness to our love and our life together, to finally lay to rest the idea that my angel was in anyway suicidal. This will be quashed. And then I will sit through all the horrific details of the case,(as if I haven’t seen them every bloody day since the accident), and I know that this is going to take me to the very edge of my sanity, and probably will negate the progress that I have made since the dreadful day. I face this willingly. I would gladly have died in her place, because she meant more to me than I do… And I know she felt the  same way towards me.

So, one way or another, this is the last act of the tragedy. I wait, battered and bruised, like King Lear, with my beloved metaphorically in my arms, and hope I will find away to move on. She will always be with me. I will always be close to tears, but time will help.

Dale ‘M’

EXISTENTIAL POWDER

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AND THE WAKING HOURS,

THE POWDER-LESS WONDER OF SLEEPLESS DREAMS…

WHERE THE HEAD IS BUZZING WITH THE NOTHINGNESS

AND THE OVER-BLOWN GESTURES OF  THE MEANINGFUL,

JUXTAPOSED ABSTRACTION AND INSTRUCTION,

AND WE ARE LIVING,  I SUPPOSE,

IN A WORLD WHERE EVERYBODY HAS READ THE MANUAL,

EXCEPT YOU… AND ME.

I HAD A MANUAL,

I HAD AN INSTRUCTRESS,

SHE, THE IMMORTAL SHE,

READ THE MANUAL…

SHE POINTED TO THE SALIENT,

BUT I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY THE BEAUTY…

I COULD NOT FIND MEANING.

AWE-STRUCK AND AWESOME,

LIKE THE CHILD IN THE CATHEDRAL…

WHERE ADULTS PLAY OUT THE RITUAL,

AND THE CHILD SAYS,

“IS THAT IT?”

ALL IS PLASTIC PORNOGRAPHY

AUTO-EROTIC WITHOUT DIDACTIC INSTRUCTION

IMAGES FLICKER THE 30 FRAMES A SECOND

REALITY, WHICH IS NOT REALITY,

IS THE ABSTRACTION.

STUCK IN THE MUNCH SCREAM…

THE SIREN SOUND OF THE 20TH CENTURY,

OR THE BECKETT ‘NOT I ‘,

WHERE JUST THE LIPS

AND THE SOUND OF THE LIPS MOVING,

IS THE VACUOUS POLEMIC

OF MODERNITY.

 

AND I CAN’T SLEEP, A WEEK OF UNSLEEP,

TAKES IT TOLL,

I LIVE IN THE POINTED POINTILLISM

OF IMAGES LAID SIDE BY SIDE,

AS IF MEANING CAN BE MIXED BY EYE OR EAR,

BY BLURRING THE EDGES,

DISTORTING THE SOUNDS…

BUT EACH UNMIXED LAYER

TAKES ME FURTHER AWAY FROM ANY MEANING.

WHAT IS MEANINGFUL?

LOVE DIED IN A MEANINGLESS WAY…

ON THE WAY TO A MEANINGLESS JOB,

AND THERE IS NO MEANING IN THAT…

SLICED BY THE METAL DISC OF A MUCK SPREADER…

AS SHE SLIPPED EFFORTLESS BENEATH A DARK TRAILER.

THERE. THERE IS A MEANINGFUL IMAGE.

THERE IS A REASON WHY?

WHY I CAN’T SLEEP.

 

IT’S HORROR IS TRIVIAL,

IN A WORLD WHICH IS MONUMENTALLY HORRIFIC…

DAILY.

AND I, THE IMMORTAL I,

STRUGGLE TOWARDS THE AWE,

AND AWAY FROM THE AWE.

AND I STRUGGLE TO FIND BEAUTY AND LOVE,

WITHOUT BILE.

 

AND I PAINT LIKE A BULIMIC,

GORGING ON THE MID-TONES OF GREY,

UNTIL I HAVE TO THROW- UP WITH COLOUR.

DON’T DIE OF BOREDOM.

DIE IN HORROR.

 

DALE ‘M’