Two brothers in their seventies, Vinnie and Oz, share a ‘squeeze’, Vanessa, on holiday in Oludeniz. It’s late morning and they’re in the ‘Lions of St George’ bar where there’s ale on tap and English St George flags hang flaccid amidst cigarette smoke.Continue reading
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.
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
63 Railway Street is a two-up and two-down terraced house, fourteen bricks wide, occupied by a respectable working class family.Continue reading
Pip, nicknamed Pipsqueak but Squeak for short, is five and living with his grandparents in a small village in Shropshire. It’s December 1941 and Squeak’s mother is a nurse in the Eighth Army. His father is a soldier somewhere. Squeak has no idea where, nor do Grandpa Tubs and Grandma Pud; the Joyce family are fond of nicknames. Squeak’s grandparents are normally genial but at odds about listening to ‘Lord Haw Haw’ on the radio. Squeak sits on Pud’s knee as Tubs turns on the radio.Continue reading
Sleep is not always David’s fail-safe escape; dreams are impossible to predict.
On an overcast afternoon, David stands dithering at an opening in a very long hedge of dense blackthorn. Uncertainly, he passes through the opening. A swirling quarrel of sparrows is deafening as they flit and skirmish in and out of the prickly hedges that dwarf him. Seeing paths running east and west, he wonders which way to go. He turns right and meets a dead end. Retracing his steps, he goes past the opening and, as this path splits into two, he hopes he’s in a maze. I like mazes, he thinks. With no sun to guide him, he loses any sense of direction and can see no landmarks above the high hedges as he searches for the centre of the maze.Continue reading
Isaac Pearlman often thinks about his friend Patrick O’Connell. Both aged fifteen, they were unlikely school friends; Patrick stood at over six foot while Isaac was small for his age. Patrick took no prisoners; anyone showing disrespect for his Irish ancestry was given an opportunity to apologise; failure to do so was severely punished. Isaac was bullied until Patrick stepped in – his ability to split the lid of a wooden school desk with a single head butt intimidated even the most foolhardy of bullies. Most of all, Isaac remembers basking in the light of Patrick’s smile, something that saw him through the darkness as his black dog bayed.Continue reading
Cheryl’s mother, Joan, is determined to get as many of the Grimaldi family together for her daughter’s wedding as possible. Five months before the wedding she finally tracks down the oldest living member of the family, great uncle Lionel, living in Delaware, and their correspondence begins. As Cheryl’s father is dead, her brother, Richie, will ‘give her away’. But Joan has a problem: who will make the first speech at the wedding reception in lieu of her dead husband? Maybe uncle Lionel? She writes to ask and he agrees.
The wedding goes exactly to plan: the sun shines, birds sing, promises are made, books signed, confetti thrown and photographs taken.
The wedding reception begins.
Uncle Li, in black tuxedo, black trousers and frilly white shirt, stands, and the catering manager hands him a microphone.
The videographer starts recording.
Hi folks. Well, here I am back in Cardiff for the first time in seventy-one years. But hell, this ain’t about me. It’s about the bride. I’m a great judge of character, you have to be selling insurance, so I know what I’m talking about and it’s the bride …. Seldom, in one person, in one woman, does one find such a combination of beauty … intelligence … sensitivity … compassion … fun-lovingness … Godliness … humility … motherliness … and great style.
Cheryl dabs at her tears. The groom, Stu, sits open-mouthed; how will his speech go down with his new wife and her mother?
Uncle Li continues, I ain’t overcooking the eggs, hyperbolizing, or making much ado about something right special – well I am. This girl is beyond compare, someone who’d make her dead daddy real proud if he was here today, and I’m real sorry he ain’t. So, be upstanding, raise your glasses … to the bride, Cheryl! Cheryl!
Food and much drink are taken until it comes to the time for Stu’s speech.
A year passes. It’s half past four and Cheryl is at home – the salon is closed on a Wednesday afternoon. She’s watching the video of their wedding when she hears the front door slam. She pauses ‘play’ as Stu enters their front room.
Uncle Li is frozen on screen.
You’re early, love, she says.
What are you doing home?
It’s Wednesday, my half day off work.
You call doing some old bird’s nails work? You must be fucking joking.
There’s no need to swear at me. I’ve done nothing wrong.
You’re watching that fucking old shit Li again, aren’t you?
What’s wrong with you?
All that bollocks, fucking lies, all of it. Beauty? Huh. Intelligence? Really. Fun-lovingness, crap. You wouldn’t know what fun was if it hit you in the face. Motherliness, you don’t get to be a mother if you don’t fuck, Mrs Bolton.
I just don’t want to do it every night.
Fuck Uncle Li, Stu shouts as he presses ‘eject’.
Cheryl weeps as he rips the tape from the VHS cassette.
Fucking speech! You bloody laughed at mine. Bitch. Humiliated me.
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© Phil Cosker 2020
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The minister’s decision to meet at Runnymede at Hew Locke’s artwork ‘The Jurors’ is perhaps from a sense of irony, or, more likely, because of her disdain for key moments in the struggle for freedom, the rule of law, equal rights and justice as represented in Locke’s twelve bronze chairs. If I have to hear another lecture about Saint Nelson bloody Mandela I’ll scream, she thinks and gives a little grunt of disgust. And as for Black Lives Matter, do me a favour; I’m a British Asian after all and I should know. Her certainty that the location will be deserted at three o’clock in the morning is the only thing that allows her to put up with Locke’s work.Continue reading