Mrs Windsor

A middle-aged woman, Penelope, is showing a potential buyer, Mr Bond, around her mother’s bungalow. It’s on the market for £387,500. 

This is the dining room, Penelope says. In the centre of the room there’s a large oval mahogany dining table covered with a considerable number of porcelain horses.
Likes nags, does she? Mr Bond asks.

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Madness

The Yoraths are a respectable, lower middle class family who have survived the Second World War in which Sidney served in the infantry. Olive fought her own battles on the home front, forever frightened of the telegram announcing Sidney’s death, while cherishing their son, Tony, who is now eight. 

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Lister

In the summer of 1961, Lister is fifteen and has a holiday job at a small carpet shop, belonging to Glyn Jones, an acquaintance of his father, an accountant, Samuel. Lister is pleased to be earning ‘a few quid’ and his parents are happy that he’s out in what Samuel calls ‘the real world’ and not forever in his bedroom reading. Lister suspects the truth is that Rachel, his mother, is perfectly happy to have a bookish introverted son, whereas Samuel is fearful that Lister doesn’t have enough oomph to be make a fortune, despite the fact, that he, though voraciously ambitious, has not made one himself.

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Lawe

Lawe sits in the doorway of an empty shop on Salter Gate. Heavy rain falls; orange light from a street lamp illuminates each drop before it splashes onto the pavement. He stares at the rain thinking, It don’t look like rain, more like the bleeding sea falling. I never learnt to swim; if it was the sea I could dive in and that would be that. Nar, not for us. He makes a pair of fists and does a quick left-right-left punch into the splashing rain. He remembers how it began. He takes a good swig from a can of Carlsberg Special and shivers.

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Gwyther House

In the time that Alfred’s been resident in Gwyther House, he’s observed the consequences of many depredations: the Great War, Spanish Flu, the Wall Street Crash, the Second World War, rationing, the global financial crisis, austerity and climate change. Covid-19 causes him little alarm. Alfred is self-centred, entirely self-sufficient and dead. 

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Lave sus Manos

Hefin is driving an enormous stolen bronze convertible Cadillac de Ville going north on the ‘5’. It’s late afternoon and the surf is up. The roof is down and he’s making good time. The car is beat up and the red leather seats have a patina created by 160,000+ miles of arses rubbing up and down or, looking at the state of the back seat, something more intimate. He leaves the freeway just after Elijo Lagoon, taking Manchester Avenue towards the coast and sees the big sign ‘Cardiff by the Sea’. He laughs; his hometown was never like this. He thinks of Springsteen’s ‘My Home Town’ as he arrives at his destination, the joint in Encinitas called ‘Lave sus Manos’. 

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The Garage

Jermaine has two loves: cars and cats. He is married to Eunice that he rhymes with pumice. They are both in their mid fifties. He is tall, rangy, as he thinks of himself. She is round; he thinks of her as a wrecking ball. He is the head of Fine Art at the Art School. They are both wealthy in their own right. Jermaine is a dilettante for whom making art is not much more than a hobby, whereas Eunice has made a vocation out of baking cakes, making needlework samplers and growing roses – her hobby is to speak of her husband with utter contempt when she meets her be-hatted friends. He is only allowed one cat, Ruskin, named after the Victorian aesthete, to whom Jermaine thinks the cat bears some comparison. They sleep in separate bedrooms: Jermaine with Ruskin and Eunice with her handbag collection. They live in a large semi-detached three-storey house in an area of fading Victorian grandeur with a large rear garden, side drive and a wooden garage. She drives a 1969 green Austin Mini Countryman (with ash wood trim) that he thinks of as little more than a shoe box on wheels, aka, a piece of shit.
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Cats

For Victoria and Grace it is about who has the coolest car, the grandest house, the most fashionable interior designer, the most expensive bespoke kitchen (with under floor heating), over-the-top dinner parties and fine wines, ostentatious jewellery, servile domestic help, the number of holidays a year, and, of course shoes and, especially, handbags.

The two women’s friendship mitigates their endless competition; it’s not malicious but intense; catty, some say.

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Valdemar

It’s early November 1956. I’m ten, and with my mum, Galina, in the kitchen of our small flat in Hull. We’re listening to the news at six o’clock on the BBC’s Home Service. Dad isn’t here; he’s still in Budapest. We’re refugees.

On the radio a man says, Two hundred thousand Russian troops are crushing the Hungarian Revolution in Budapest.

I asked, we’re Hungarian, aren’t we? 

Mum says nothing; she is standing in front of the radio, listening intently. I am sitting at the table, transfixed. The Porklot, my favourite, is going cold on my plate and I’m thinking that’s real gunfire, not like in the cinema.

The man on the radio says, I’m here beneath the walls of Budapest. At dawn today, Soviet forces, with a thousand tanks, attacked Budapest with the aim of toppling the legal, democratic, anti-Soviet government led by Mr Imre Nagy who has said, I quote, Our troops are fighting. The government is in place. I am making this fact known to our people and the whole world. Mr Nagy is pleading for help from the west.

Can I go and help Mr Nagy? 

No, Valdemar, you can’t and, sadly, no one else will either. 

Why aren’t we with dad helping, mum?

Your father thought we might be harmed.

Why?

Eat now, little one, mum says, ruffling my hair. 

It’s 1964 and I’m writing an essay for my A-level history course. I write that Imre Nagy was executed by hanging after a secret trial on June 16th 1958. I never could ask Dad why; he never came to Hull. I used to ask mum why, but all she would say was, he sends us money. I never saw him again after we left.

It’s 2006 and I’m sixty. I hadn’t been able to explain why, but that radio broadcast in 1956 had always haunted me. I’m looking on line and I discover the truth of Nagy’s execution; it wasn’t ‘the drop’. A photograph shows Nagy hung by his neck, his feet not quite able to support his weight, being strangled on an angled board observed by Soviet and Hungarian stooges. I’m so angry; injustice is dreadful – being murdered like that is barbaric!

On screen, I enlarge the photograph to get a better look at the murderers. I can’t believe my eyes. If only mum was alive – but could she, would she, tell me the truth anyway? I rummage round the old photo albums on the shelves in my study and pull out the one of Mum, Dad and me in 1955. I find the photo I’m looking for – the one of my dad holding my hand. There’s no mistaking his face, his eyes. I want to scream. There’s no one who can tell me the truth. God help me. One of the men murdering Nagy is my dad. 

He was called Valdemar, just like me. I don’t want to share my name with a murderer.