Sell By……..

Now here’s a thought for all you dominated, put upon, subjugated and vulture pecked husbands out there.

How about a ‘sell by’ date being tattooed on your wife’s bum or better still a ‘use by’ or a ‘best before’ date?

The divorce rate would flat-line for a start and think about all that mobile phone tyranny you would be spared every time you left the house without her. I mean let’s face it, men wear a damn sight better than women…….actually I take that back, have you seen all those orange-haired men walking about the place lately? Dear dear me, they look worse than a geriatric ‘celebrity’ trying to be famous again!

JR

PS As you know I have yet to succumb to mobile insanity and what a remarkably peaceful life I lead. When I’m away, the missus gets one call to say I’m still alive (which probably disappoints but she can’t have everything can she?) and that’s it.That’s secure love for you – we don’t have to check up on each other every five minutes like so many other couples I know, mind you there was that rather odd phone call last night from a chap called Cess…….

JR

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Welshy Lips

You know, I didn’t marry the first time around until I was 41 (happily divorced at 43) and up until that time I had kissed many an exotic, black, brown, olive-skinned, full, half full and slippery pair of lips, but do you know that the tastiest pair I ever kissed, belonged to  a Welshy girl. All around the world, all around the ins and outs of love and where did I end up? In the fragrant arms of a girl from Swansea, see what I mean, the Welsh girls have it!

JR

Musical Beds

One last testimonial to my dear father – he’s still alive too, 84 and still knocking off his beers and B&H, why the hell bother to lead a healthy lifestyle one may well ask.

Now, before I go any further no doubt you have already gathered that I come from a rather weird family, indeed my own doc reckons that I suffer from faulty wiring thus the creative bent. There’s probably something in that, I mean I can’t imagine why anyone would actually choose to write, there has to be a streak of insanity somewhere or other, look how many writers have knocked themselves off for heaven’s sake?

Personally I’ve never felt suicidal, my wife has though, something to do with having me as a husband she says.Of course it has nothing to do with the size of her arse does it, her feeling suicidal that is.Ooops, sorry I’m digressing again.

Now then, musical beds and my old man.

Many years ago when I was a student and still connected as it were, to the family home. I used to turn up every now and again, girlfriend attached, for some free board and lodging. My father, believe it or not was quite liberal in his own funny way (actually, he was as jealous as hell, all those pretty girls about the place and there was bugger all he could do about it dirty old sod, after all I can’t imagine my mother being a pretty sight to wake up to in the morning what with curlers, face cream and a bosom capable of playing ‘Rule Britannia’ on the floorboards), at least he had a realistic idea of what young men got up to.

The house rules therefore were simple enough when it came to unbridled hanky-panky, do what you like but make certain your little sister and mother don’t see anything. In other words, share a bed with your girlfriend by all means, but make damn certain no-one catches you and remember the floorboards creak like hell. All fair enough you must admit – on the face of it anyway.

The point is, the above was all very well until one accounted for the fact that my family tended to play musical beds on a nightly basis ie one never knew who the hell was sleeping where. For instance, if my mother and father had had a falling out over say, who swigged the last drop of sherry or who smoked the last fag, then it would be separate bedrooms or even perhaps one of the bedrooms with twin beds. If all was well in the matrimonial nest then it would be a bedroom with a double bed in it. Now to add to all this confusion, my little sister would generally wander about at will and crawl into whatever bed tickled her fancy. If I was home  and unattached it would often be mine, come to think of it, it would often be mine whether there was a girlfriend in tow or not. And God could my little tyke of a sister kick! – oh and don’t forget there was my elder sister and her chap to make matters worse too.

So, where is all this going I hear you ask? Well, on one particular Saturday morning I arrived in the kitchen, suitably hung-over and fragile. My father as usual was sitting at the kitchen table smoking and reading a newspaper.

‘There’s a cup of tea over there for your mother,’ he said. ‘Be a good fellow and take it up to her will you please?’

‘Of course’ I replied, we young ‘uns were fairly polite and obedient in those days – at least we didn’t call our lecturers let alone our teachers by their first names and the only friendship I ever cultured with my old man was at the end of his boot, not that he ever wore boots but you get my drift. I picked up the cup and saucer (mugs with a pair of bespectacled tits on the enamel were not really de rigueur then either).’ Where is she?’

‘Oh, that bedroom at the front of the house, you know the one with the twin beds.’

‘No dad,’ I replied. ‘Judy is in there.’ Judy was the current girlfriend. They tended to ebb and flow but that’s another story. Suddenly my father’s face went white.

‘What! She can’t be! I mean……..oh God…….’

‘What’s the matter?’ I asked, thinking he was about to have a heart attack.

‘What?……oh….oh…nothing. Nothing at all, I just remembered something that’s all. I thought your mother had gone into another bedroom last night because of my….er…. snoring……….. oh nevermind, just take the tea up to your mother will you.’

How odd I thought. What on earth was the matter with him? Anyway, I took the tea up to my mother as requested, she was in the parental double bedded bedroom, and decided to forget the whole silly business. My father could be a bit loopy from time to time, so nothing new.

Later on that day, while Judy and I were wandering around some sand dunes looking for a suitable spot to get up to some randy mischief, she said rather wistfully, ‘Julian, you know that was a bit risky you sticking your hand up my nightie this morning. Your mother was in the next bedroom for God’s sake! I might have been hidden by the quilt but I knew what you were up to.’

I was about to deny all knowledge when I quickly remembered my father’s face earlier that day.Instead of saying anything, I thought Oh well, I hope the old boy enjoyed it, serves him right for playing musical beds!

JR

PS I’ve just come back from the Doc’s. As I was sitting in the surgery waiting room I noticed a damn great poster saying, ‘ DO YOU LOOK AFTER SOMEONE WHO IS ILL, FRAIL,DISABLED OR SUFFERING FROM A MENTAL ILLNESS?’ Jesus I thought, my wife can answer ‘Yes’ to all those. No hope for me is there?

Whiplashed into Greece.

Talking about parental dispute over domestic obligation, I am reminded of another of my father’s – shall we say less admirable – examples of masculine sovereignty, although I feel compelled to point out here, that although we live in an age of enlightened liberalism  there are still many men of my generation who yearn for the odious chauvinism of Dutch ovens (breaking wind in bed for the uninitiated), look with wonder as a woman wallops a pint pot of ale and are still trying to work out why they should be hated for merely exercising the courtesy of allowing a lady to go through a doorway before them!

Anyway, all this topsy-turvy car crash of ‘liberal’ wisdom aside, my dear old man and his insistence that he be the boss in his own home – for all his faults at least he didn’t go out discussing hairstyle curtains, eyelashes and the latest Fanta face embrocations with his pals, come to think of it neither was he into anal hair removing and nappy changing – another world eh! Damn I’m digressing again, my apologies.

So, being whiplashed into Greece. What on earth is the man going on about I hear you wonder, ‘Whiplashed into Greece?’ Idiot.

Well now, this is exactly what happened to me when I was a spotty, hormone exploding twelve-year-old and believe me in the early sixties there were not many people being whiplashed into Greece for a holiday, or even being flown in full stop for that matter. In those days Greece was reasonably unspoilt, credit cards, baseball caps, unisex tattoos and young girls with quick release switches on their knickers had yet to conquer the Mediterranean.

Now then, this sudden holiday had come completely out of the blue. I had been picked up from school by my father and the next thing, all I  remember is sliding into the starched white sheets of a Pullman sleeper, a basket of in-flight hard-boiled sweets to stop the ears popping, and the sun ravaging my backside until it blistered.

And the ‘whiplash’? Well, as it transpired many years later, my father, being the man of the house and seeing to all things financial, had received the compensation cheque from my mother’s whiplash injury following a car accident and decided that he and I should have a little holiday on it. Bugger my mother was his view, there was plenty of washing up, cleaning, laundry……… to keep her occupied in our absence.

Thus my being ‘whiplashed into Greece’. It’s true too.

JR

Washing Up.

Now, I was brought up at a time when the female of the species looked after the domestic side of things, while the men went out to earn the bacon.

Anyway, one fine day my mother had exercised the temerity to suggest to my father that he do some washing up; she had been listening to Woman’s Hour on the radio apparently, something to do with women strangling themselves with bra straps, and a woman called Greer telling all her fellow crusaders that it was alright to be a slut after all.

Well, my father, sitting at the kitchen table, smoking and guzzling the pre-supper sherry as usual, had looked up, grunted and carried on reading the evening newspaper.

All women were unhinged, so take no notice appeared to be his response to such an outrageous and ridiculous suggestion.He would have a word with his doc friend later on that evening.

Nothing further was said about my mother’s aborted attempt at equality.

A few days went by, again nothing. All was quiet in the Ruck household until that is, I returned home the following Saturday afternoon. The first thing I noticed was the noise of scraping china as I opened the front door.

How odd I thought?

I pushed the door open rather gently not knowing what on earth was going on, until I eventually enjoyed an uninterrupted view of the somewhat spacious hallway.

And behold…….. the floor everywhere was covered with crockery! Plates, bread plates, fish plates, tureens, cups, saucers you name it. But here’s the best bit, upon further inspection a drop of Heinz tomato ketchup had been carefully placed on every single piece of visible china.

My mother never asked my father to do the washing up again…….she carried on paying the lady who came in ‘to do’ though.

JR

Walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

Many years ago I was sitting on a rock trying to avoid having my big toe snapped off by a ferocious crab with a chip on his shoulder.

It was such a beautiful day too.

The Sea of Galilee stretched out before me looking puzzled and fed up with all the attention it had been receiving over the years. I could almost hear it shimmer ‘Bugger off, go home and don’t come back! I’ve damn well had enough!’.

Be that as it may, the sun was out, the Sea was calm and I was pleasantly plastered in that unique arrak sort of way. I was sitting there bottle in one hand, Nobbler (that was the nickname of a cheap Israeli fag) in the other, while my feet dangled in the cool waters of an ancient Christian icon.

The day was beautiful, my mood was beautiful. I was young, full of hell and looking forward to a meeting later the following day with a cracking Sabra from Tel Aviv. I had gone multi-cultural and it was bloody great.

I had wised up to the crabs, so at least I wouldn’t turn up to the date toe-less, drunk maybe but not toe-less. Anyway there I was, wondering if I could walk on water and whether the arrak would help, when I decided to have a browse at a manuscript I had been playing around with – funnily enough it eventually became Ragged Cliffs.

I soon became engrossed with the words and the arrak, indeed so engrossed that even now I remember little if anything about the rest of the day, apart from the tickles of some bright moonlight and the odd cicada chorus.

The following day, sober and ready to take on the world again, I realised that I was no longer in possession of my precious manuscript. It had gone. I tried to remember where I had been on the Sea of Galilee but it was hopeless, I even searched part of the shoreline for a day or two. Nothing.

My one and only work of literary genius had gone, the bloody crabs had had it!

Well, that little incident had taken place some thirty years ago, but do you know that the manuscript did eventually turn up. Five years after it had disappeared, it arrived at my grandmother’s house, in South Wales of all places.

It had been carefully packed, the chapters all neatly treasury tagged and in numerical order, there was even a hint of some tender loving care.

A piece of paper saying ‘Thank you, from xxxx Kibbutz, Galilee,’ had been placed on top of the bundles of paper.

JR

PS The above is absolutely true.

My Dentist and Welsh at that!

Do indulge me here, but for Denplan reasons I was obliged to visit my dentist who practises down this dark alleyway in Cardiff. A back street tooth doc if you like – I still have to reach for the Platinum Plastic though every time he drills me with his toothy smile.

Anyway, Dafydd Islwyn is his name and he’s gay. Now, I have been known to make a passing reference or two to gayboys, you know the fact that I’m starting to feel a little unfashionable by being of a heterosexual inclination, but be that as it may, back to our Islwyn.

So, he’s poked around for a few minutes, sprayed a bit of Pledge here and there, smiled at his nurse Donna Heather Mills (I’m not kidding, although I did notice that she walked with a slight limp), and then tells me that all is well and that I can bugger off until the next £150.00 is due.

‘Oh and before you go, Julian,’ says he, ‘I might have something of interest for you.’

Can’t imagine what thinks I, unless it’s a new set of teeth.

Next thing he pulls out a catalogue from beneath the chair of torture.

‘Look here,’ he enthuses.’I thought these would be right up your street. They’re bloody great, trust me.’ I peered over his shoulder and allowed my eyes to follow his dental fingertips. ‘They’re the very latest and so incredibly convenient.’

He was pointing at an orange coloured pair of backless pants on offer in some gay mag!

Well….I mean.I’m not gay but these days it seems I ought to be. I’ll be thinking twice before he has me prostrate and defenceless in his chair again though I can tell you. I still haven’t forgotten the occasion when he said in those dulcet Welsh tones of his, ‘Now don’t worry I’m just going to put this in your mouth……..’ Scared the hell out of me!

JR

PS Islwyn the Tooth Mechanic has just been on the blower. Apparently his proper name is ‘Dafydd ‘ap’ Islwyn’. I always thought ‘aps’ had something to do with iPads and Blackberrys, shows how much I know!

Blinded By Love.

It was back in the 1950’s, morality enjoyed a more secretive reputation then. A more, shall we say…. refined crudity.

Believe it or not, couples who had forsaken propriety and the disapproval of mother church, did actually register with hotels and accommodating guest houses as Mr & Mrs Smith, everyone knew of course but everyone loved sex too, albeit that grunts and groans had to be shoved into pillows and behind closed doors. That was the thing about sex in the ’50’s, it was there, it was all around but it wasn’t seen.

Now, Jenny Winsome and Paul Smith were soon to become Mr & Mrs Smith, the genuine article trust me. Their future married name may well have been slightly on the unimaginative side, but I assure you neither was unimaginative by disposition. On the contrary, they both loved flowers, rock n’ roll, frothy coffee and the musings of Karl Marx. They might have objected to Marx’s antics with the stock market but nevertheless they were both prepared to forgive, he was a great man, a visionary, after all. Besides his Bible beat the hell out of the Holy version and that’s a fact.

Bohemian and unconventional – indeed fast forward a few years and they would have been called ‘hippies’- they may have been but when it came to some serious hanky-panky, ‘living together’ or God forbid a bout of heavy petting they were as tied to the mores and sexual censorship of the ’50’s as anyone else. A kiss, even a full-blown snog was allowed but bugger all else. Paul would just have to wait until the big day and that was that. In the meantime, he could just do what men were always doing, dirty sod!

The big day went without a hitch, apart from the best man being too drunk to give a speech and the Maid of Honour being discovered in flagrante delicto with the newly appointed father-in-law – on Paul’s side.

Nothing new there perhaps, a typical sort of marriage really, even  if it was in the 1950’s, although you would be forgiven for thinking that all these minor local difficulties would cause Jenny at least a modicum of distress. Not so. She had more important things on her mind. Far more important.

The honeymoon.

This was the problem and it could be her undoing.

She and Paul had been courting for just over a year before tying the matrimonial knot. Plenty of time to get to know one another, at least by the standards of the day. However, their courting had more or less always been on Jenny’s terms.

She controlled matters, she manipulated the love play and she called the shots. She had heard that some women were starting to agitate for equality with men. What on earth was the matter with them, she had wondered? Women had always ruled the roost, so why upset the apple-cart. How silly!

Anyway, the honeymoon was definitely a cause for concern. And why? Because she was as blind as a blind man on Armistice Day without her ugly National Health spectacles, that’s why.

To date she had managed to fool Paul by claiming a pretty and oh so feminine clumsiness. You know, the female vulnerability card, and if men were stupid enough to fall for it, then that was their look out.

Well, all this devious romantic sword-play was all very well while she was in control of where they went, what they did and so on, but what the hell was she going to do when there was nowhere to hide, nowhere to run to. The very thought petrified her but even this paled into insignificance when she considered the prospect of Paul seeing her naked, heavy brown NHS specs with lenses thicker that her creamy thighs attached. Oh God, it just didn’t bear thinking about!

Now, vanity can be an uncompromising mistress by anyone’s standards, but on this occasion she was being particularly uncompromising if not downright tyrannical.Jenny just didn’t know what to do. She was beside herself. If Paul found out about her handicap, and saw her wearing the monstrous specs then that, she knew, would be that. How could any man love such a sight, nevermind four-eyed bull-dogs, frog faces and saucers the size of plates and three times as thick!

After much soul-searching, she finally decided that she would just have to manage as best she could and eventually come clean, that was all there was to it. Paul loved her didn’t he? Why should a pair of spectacles spoil things……..why indeed?

She kept saying these words to herself as she put on her brand new pink nightdress ready for what she knew must come. She was tingling from head to toe, and for the moment at least all thoughts of impaired vision and brutal vanity flew out of the honeymoon suite window.

The consummation of their vows went smoothly enough. Good love-making takes time and they were both aware of this, flowering  hippies that they were. They both slept well and went down to breakfast, invigorated and ready for anything. Jenny felt a new confidence as she sat a the breakfast table, a new certainty. There were other ways of manipulating Paul after all, the specs wouldn’t be a problem. She would eventually reveal all, but right now was definitely not the time. Paul was far too absorbed with her body and what he could do with it, so who was she to spoil things?

Just as the bacon and eggs were placed before them Paul looked at Jenny with eyes that were crazy with love and said ‘Aren’t I the luckiest fellow in the world.’ (Author’s note – he would wise up soon enough the daft bugger!).’Darling,’ he said,’ would you be so good as to pass me the salt please?’

Jenny, whose eyes were not so crazy with love, was busy  working out who was going to pay the hotel bill and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be her (Author’s note again – you can guess who was going to be the Finance Director in this Company can’t you).

‘Oh sorry dearest, I was miles away. Here we are.’

A pause hung on the end of Paul’s tongue for a moment.

‘No darling, the salt. You’ve just passed me the pepper.’

‘Oh have I? Silly me. Here we are then.’

‘Er….darling, that’s the vinegar. Sorry…….but…….’

‘Oh dear,’ Jenny giggled. ‘Whatever is the matter with me!’ This time Paul reached across the table and picked up the salt himself.

‘ Jenny, you don’t have a problem with your eyesight do you? I mean I have noticed one or two things…….?’ He half joked. Now was not the time to be picky, they were on their honeymoon after all and last night well….Jenny had been….well…… His groin started aching just thinking about it.

‘What! Are you accusing me of having bad eyesight Paul? Well really! I’ve never heard of such a thing.’

Vanity had committed her now. Terrible uncompromising vanity. ‘I was just distracted that’s all.  I have perfect eyesight.Perfect, I’m telling you! You know I can be a bit clumsy sometimes, a bit in my own little world.’

‘Alright, alright.’ Paul placated.’ I was only joking. Keep your hair on.’

‘Well, fancy accusing me of such a thing.’

‘Nevermind. Of course there’s nothing wrong with your eyesight darling. Now, let’s finish our breakfasts and go out for a walk , there’s some lovely countryside around here. It’s a beautiful day and we can work out how to save up some money for that Morris Minor we have promised ourselves. What do you say?’

‘Ok.’ Jenny beamed, all irritation gone. She was in control again, but she would teach him a lesson nevertheless. He had hurt her vanity and that just wasn’t allowed.

Later that night when Paul was fast asleep, Jenny was re-tracing their footsteps earlier that day. It was a full moon so she was able to see where she was going without much difficulty. Her spectacles helped, she had retrieved them from one of the hidden pockets in her suitcase. After about ten minutes of walking, she finally came to her destination. She climbed over a gate, walked for a few minutes more, did what she had to do and then returned to the hotel. Paul was still fast asleep and blissfully unaware of her nocturnal adventures. Her body had seen to that earlier on.

The following morning Jenny insisted they repeat the walk of the previous day.’It’s so beautiful Paul,’ she had coaxed, ‘all those wonderful mountains, flowers , sun and everything. So romantic, let’s take a blanket with us this time and maybe we can lie down in a field and sunbathe. We might even…..well you know.’ That was enough for poor old Paul. Wherever she led he would follow, winky primed and ready to fire.

An hour or so later as they walked passed an open  field Jenny said, ‘Paul, you know you were wondering whether there was anything wrong with my eyesight yesterday morning…………’

‘ Oh…did I? Wonder about your eyesight I mean. Can’t remember now. Why?’

Jenny’s voice hardened.

‘Well you did, I assure you. Anyway regardless of whether you remember or not, can you see that drawing pin in the trunk of that oak tree?’

‘What?’ Paul replied slightly bemused.

‘Can you see that drawing pin in the trunk of that oak tree over there?’ Jenny repeated as she pointed with her finger. ‘Look, will you! The tree in the middle of the field.’

‘Are you serious, Jenny?’

‘Yes I am. I can see it. You’re eyesight is supposed to be so perfect, so why can’t you see it?’

‘You’re being stupid now Jenny. Are you trying to tell me that you can see a drawing pin in that tree at this distance?’

‘Yes I am.’

‘Well if you can, then there’s damn all wrong with your eyesight I’ll give you that.’

‘Come on,’ Jenny ordered, ‘I’ll show you’.

Jenny immediately sprinted off toward the oak tree but she failed to see the surly old Jersey cow standing a few yards directly in front of her.

Crash, bang, wallop! What a picture!

Now, that’s vanity for you!

JR

PS And who said I was a fan of Chaucer?!

The ‘Weather’

You have to admit, it does fascinate.

All the changes, inconvenience, unpredictability and forgotten brollies. Wherever would we be without it?

I really wouldn’t want to live in somewhere like Florida. How positively boring, always knowing what the weather was going to do next. Always knowing that it was going to be warm. And what about the beauty of the changing seasons? Have you ever thought what it would be like to miss all those incredible reds and browns, or being blinded by a sudden snowfall?

That’s Gt Britain for you, rain ‘an all, but I can’t think of a better place to be!

JR

A Wedding Kiss.

The old man pushed yellow and green bits of foliage away from his watery eyes, as he tried to remember.

Wrinkled hands that had once held so much love, paused in mid-air as he stopped for a moment and realised that his time had not yet come. There were too many things that he chose to never forget; he needed more time to collate and file. More time to feel and touch the memories that had become a part of him.

It had been a long time ago. The girl had been so pretty then, so lovely. Her life, his life, had become one. They had never parted and yet………..

His feet  carried him further through the greens and browns, until he came to an open space that stretched out across an ocean of grey and blue. Frothy waves seemed to kiss a jagged row of cliffs facing the place where he stood, but he couldn’t be too sure.

Age was like that.

Nothing was ever certain.

He sighed to himself before moving again, his eyes searching for something special. They had to be here. Even in a fit temper the sea didn’t come up this far he knew that, or at least he hoped he knew that. That was another thing about age, everything relied on hope.

A few minutes later he found what he was looking for.

For a moment all he could do was stare and listen to the quiet chat of sea and wave. There were no human sounds to spoil the peace. Or his memory.

He looked down and saw the two stony seats. They hadn’t moved in forty years. Natural yet forgiving, they had waited patiently for his return.

What was forty years after all?

The old man removed his hat, undid his weatherproof shooting jacket and sat down on one of the stones. It fitted perfectly.

As his hand  stretched out and touched the empty seat next to him,he closed his eyes and allowed the waves to take his mind back to another time, a younger time, a time when she had been sitting next to him, a time when her kiss had been his life and soul………

Sebastian St John Sinclair, had been expelled from Eton but rescued by Harrow ‘on a trial basis’. The trial basis had, much to everyone’s amazement, resulted in a few ‘A’ Levels being passed with outstanding grades. Oxford had welcomed him with open arms but soon threw him out when it was discovered that his enthusiasm for women and drink far outweighed his enthusiasm for ‘Greats’ as they were known. To be fair though, how could Latin, Greek, Philosophy and Ancient History possibly compare with beer, fags and frilly knickers?

A friend of his father’s, an indulgent and kindly soul in both personality and wealth, had managed to come to the rescue on this occasion, by securing a place for the miscreant Sebby at Essex University. A militant kibbutz it may have been back then in the ’60’s, but the History of Art hit the spot, as indeed did the art historian lecturer who had identified some diligent virtue in this clever fellow with a pukka voice.

A degree of sorts was eventually awarded, although those in the know knew that Sebby’s manly charms, had probably had more to do with this than any particular interest in what impressions Monet considered worth painting.

What next?

Now this was the question that vexed Sebby’s mind more than anything else for the next few years, as he travelled around the world (well not really, but he was such a loveable bugger so what the hell) spending his father’s hard-earned cash –  maybe not, his father had been a banker. The old boy wouldn’t really have minded he was sure, anyway there wasn’t a great deal his father could have said, stiffed up as he was in the family vault.

Decision making had never been one of Sebby’s strongpoints, but seeing things through to the end, one way or another anyway, certainly was – at least where drinking sessions and a pretty smile were concerned.

And then his life changed…………...

He had been sitting in one of the less salubrious bars of a Parisian backstreet, although this was probably putting it a trifle mildly; it was one of those typical flick-knife and stale egg baguette places that stank of Gitanes and criminal gossip. Even the odd greasy trench coat and felt hat appeared from time to time, making him feel as if he was sitting on the set of some ancient Froggy black and white movie and not a smelly little bar – not that the trench coat was of Burberry provenance, no class the Frogs and if nothing else Sebby had plenty of class.

As he took a sip of pastis and a long drag on his cigarette, he couldn’t help but observe his own reflection in the mirror facing him. Not bad he thought, not bad at all.

Even he had to admit that he was a handsome bugger, fair-haired, dimpled, typical movie star ‘craggy features’ etc etc. He didn’t dwell on his good looks though, he never had done in fact, for all his faults shallow vanity had never been one of them.

He took another pull on his cigarette and began to consider why on earth he tended to frequent these cheap and nasty dives. It wasn’t the money for God’s sake, he was loaded, at least his old man had been loaded.Maybe he just got a kick out of seeing how the other half lived and thanking his lucky stars that he was there out of choice – oddly enough something of the Essex kibbutz had rubbed off on him after all.

And then it happened.

She appeared.

From nowhere.

‘Excuse me. Can you spare a smoke? I shouldn’t really but oh I don’t know I just feel like one.’

Sebb felt his arm being touched and turned around.

He was about to reply but the young woman’s eyes stopped him in his tracks. Her whole body stopped him in his tracks. She was so utterly beautiful. There was a darkness about her.Eyes, hair, expression and yet there was nothing of the sinister. In contrast her skin was pale, delicate even, it seemed to dare anyone to touch it, as her eyes looked into his with an honesty that was almost breathtaking.

‘I…..um….er…yes of course.’ Sebby mumbled as he offered her a cigarette from his packet. ‘Er….take a couple for later if you like.’

Women never unsettled him, let alone tied his tongue up in knots but this one had managed it, just by scrounging a fag off him. What the hell was going on?

‘No. That’s alright.’ The young woman replied.

Her smile nearly knocked him off his stool. ‘ One is enough thank you. I’m not really a smoker.’ She took a cigarette out of the packet and Sebby lit it.

‘You spoke English to me just now.’ Sebby said, he couldn’t think of anything else to say.’How did you know?’

There was another smile. Oh God that smile of hers!

‘ I heard you speaking at the bar. Your French is good. Very good. But I have lived in Paris most of my life. I have an English father. My name is Colette and your’s……..’

They spent the next two weeks gorging on each other’s flesh as they explored, discovered and liberated.

They loved all day and they loved all night. They just couldn’t stop loving.

Sebby’s hand remained resting on the empty stone seat as he remembered those two weeks in Paris. Since then he and Colette had  married and remained together ever since. He had gone on to become an acclaimed art critic, she had gone then on to become the most beautiful mother in the world. He remembered the last time they had sat together in this special place. They had held hands then, they had loved so much.

He stood up, the waves finally telling him what he should do. Colette was at home, in body at least, her mind had disappeared a long time ago.Her beauty still lingered in the lucid moments but even they were tiring of life, of living. For a moment Sebby’s hands trembled with love and memory. He put his hat back on, zipped up his shooting jacket and made his way back through the undergrowth.

Colette may have vanished into another special place but her love remained.

One day he would sit with her again and hold her hand.

One day they would enjoy another wedding kiss.

The End