29 April 2014

It's flower time!

Two things I like at this time of year

Straight from the garden, no need to go to the woods to pick bluebells. The perfume is fabulous; once the bluebells get in a warm room their scent simply magnifies.

 This year the camellia had more flowers and 
there's still plenty of buds waiting to open.

I love springtime!
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27 April 2014


The two made their way to the water's edge, Dan's trainer-clad feet flying to keep up, locks the colour of nutmeg flapping as he ran. Jed toted the heavy tackle box, to Dan's chagrin. He liked to play the big man when they went fishing, a role he adopted when his Dad was skippering his trawler.
The grass sparkled beneath their feet as they dumped the gear by the osier tree which slanted towards the water as if striving to drink. Jed hung his waxed jacket on a wooden tethering post and proceeded to unpack their gear while his son explored the adjacent woods.
Dan liked the forest best when he could kick the brown leaves to make them rustle and scare the redwing, but this morning the ground was soft as a cushion after the rain. A squirrel shot into view and paused when he saw Dan ambling along. Dan stooped to find a cone with which to lure it but then he heard Jed's summons and chose instead to participate in a more rewarding pastime. Spinning on his heel he ran back to the lake, happily anticipating a few hours’ fishing and quiet contemplation with his Dad.
'So why do you think your mother wanted us out of the way?' asked Jed as he adjusted the float with his powerful hands.
Dan had no idea, unless it had something to do with that man who called at the house when he was tucked up in bed. Uneasily, he tugged at his knitted scarf. He once saw the man through the window hurrying to their gate, carrying a huge piece of cardboard which knocked off his hat when he tried lifting the latch one-handed. He called him The Cowboy on account of the hat. He'd always wanted a cowboy hat, but had lately gone off the idea. Dan eyed his father's profile and tried to think what he'd look like in cowboy gear. He'd only ever seen him with a navy-blue woolly hat covering his coarse grey hair, but he'd like to bet he'd look real good in a Stetson, with silver pistols ready to draw and a gleaming sheriff's star on a black shirt.
Dan hadn't told him about the mystery man in case it made him weep. He didn't want that. He hadn't liked to see him cry when Mum's tummy lump disappeared and the baby they promised went to live somewhere else. He had undertaken then to make sure nothing ever upset his Dad again, that's why he couldn't tell him about the man Mum invited in.
His mother definitely wasn't right. No longer did she jest and joke and play pretend when Dad was away. It was very worrying. Sometimes it stopped him sleeping. He'd heard his father once say, 'Lighten-up, Francine. Don't be so heavy with the boy.' Unsure what lighten-up meant, Dan sneaked a look at his mother, who seemed the same as always except her mouth was stretched in a hesitant smile. She blamed her tetchy mood on lack of sleep. Dan couldn't take that in, not when she spent her evenings napping - at any rate the ones when the man didn't come.


Dan cast his line the way his Dad told him, his blue eyes flashing as he thought how wild Matt and Digger would be when he told them he'd actually used a rod. They still fished with nets and jars, but as Dad said he was sensible enough to handle proper equipment.
Jed nodded his approval. 'Well done, son. If that bait don't get 'em biting, nothing will.' He secured the lid on the baccy tin which held the maggots and installed it in the tackle box.
'Will you be home next weekend, Dad?'
'Sure will, lad, but don't tell your mother. Let it be a surprise, eh? Thought mebbe as it's my birthday we could go for a bite at The Lion. The break would do us good, your mother in particular.
'She's been bad-tempered lately, Dad. She won't play with me no more.' Dan felt his grievances rising and before he could stop himself wild accusations tore from his lips, charging Francine with not appreciating his needs, for sending him to bed early with no supper and no television, while she ....' Dan clamped his teeth on his bottom lip to prevent him saying more, from revealing Francine's involvement with the cowboy man.
Jed pressed his hand on Dan's shoulder. 'Don't fret, boy. It'll come right in a matter of months. Mebbe if you showed willing with your chores instead of idling the punishments would lessen.'
Dan didn't think that would make any difference, not with his mother preoccupied with another man, but he was willing to give it a try. It was only fair on his Dad.


The ensuing week was better. Dan helped Francine with jobs he'd never done before and was pleased as punch when she praised his window-cleaning, saying she'd never seen the glass so sparkling clean. However, just after Jed rang on Wednesday a strange thing happened. Dan was consuming a hot dog fresh from the travelling van and Francine was filling packing cases (which she'd lugged from the cellar all by herself) with her precious figurines. 'Don't want these broken when your Dad comes home,' she explained when Dan queried her action.
Dan nibbled the end of the bread roll. He was confused. Jed might be a tough guy, but he was mighty gentle around the house. If anyone broke ornaments in this house it was him or Mum.
Francine giggled as she planted a pink crinolined lady in the crate, the first chuckle Dan had heard in weeks. 'Don't crease your brow, Danny,' she said, her hazel eyes twinkling. 'I'm planning a surprise for your Dad's birthday.'
So was Dad, Dan thought, his mind in a turmoil over what to do, whether to reveal Jed's plan or keep quiet. He wanted to ask Matt or Digger, but Matt was away at his Grandad's farm and Digger was none too bright at the best of times. He licked a dribble of mustard off the remaining piece of sausage before popping it in his mouth. He could smell his mother's chips warming in the stove. Another time he might beg a few to round off his tea, only the mood for eating had gone. He wished his Dad was there to tell him what to do. Then he remembered Jed's wish that he say nothing and rationalized that since his request came before all this nonsense with packing cases he, Dan, should keep his promise.
However, before the night was out, as Dan climbed into his winceyette pyjamas, Francine unfolded the plan which changed everything and relieved Dan of the need for silence.
'Look at the parlour,' she said, eyeing a strip of paper suspended from the ceiling. 'Not had a lick of paint in years with your father on his boat so much and my back preventing me from assaulting the walls. But I've got plans for righting that, with the help of Cedric's brother.'
Cedric was the long-haired artist who lived opposite. Although Dan didn't know his brother he had an uneasy feeling about him, feeling certain - without Francine owning up - that he was the secret caller.
Francine went on with her account. 'It was a good idea seeking advice from Cedric's brother Duncan, him being an interior designer. He's been ever so obliging, coming twice a week with sketches for my regard.'
The breath left Dan's lips like a puff from the bellows. So that was who the stranger was, the man in the showy gear who timed his visits when he, Dan, was in bed.
Francine put the last ornament in the crate. 'I raised the money for his fee selling cross-stitch pictures to a buyer Duncan found, who wanted more when they were ready.' She crossed the room, stopping by the mirror to check her unruly chestnut hair, coiling it with slender fingers and lifting it free of her blue linen collar. She seemed suddenly carefree and Dan thought how pretty she was with her cheeks flushed and chubbier than he'd ever seen before.
And then the bell sounded in the hall, its jangle reverberating through the house, and Dan guessed, by the way his mother glanced first at him and then towards the door, who the visitor was.


The man breezed into the room flourishing his wide-brimmed hat, bowing slightly when he saw Dan. 'Pleased to meet you, young sir. Duncan Thresher's the name, Maestro of Colour, at your service.' His manner did not impress Dan, but the expansive smile embraced him and made him feel happy inside.
Francine gave him a can of Jed's beer which he drank without pause before extracting pages of paper from the pocket of a beige leather coat, fringed like the blanket on Dan's bed. Placing the can on the sideboard, now free of ornaments and picture frames, the man gazed into Francine's eyes. 'You sparkle with mischief, Madam,' he said, proffering the pages with a bow. 'Are you sure your friends know what to do?'
Francine smiled. 'They're eager as pups to oblige, Duncan. Amazin' what a pledge of free booze can do.'
'And is Daniel aware of the plan?'
Dan looked quizzically from one to the other, hoping that one of them would enlighten him. Francine pulled him close with a possessive arm, so close that his nose touched her tummy. Smelling her warmth and the gardenia talc she used every day made him feel safer than he had for ages. He was reluctant to move but, as her scheme unfolded, excitement stirred within, making his arms want to swing and his feet to skip in anticipation of being included in a real adult adventure.
Duncan Thresher playfully cuffed his ear. 'So will you play your part, young man? Keep that cheeky mouth sealed until it is a relevant time to speak?'
Dan wasn't sure what relevant signified, but he nodded anyway. Francine smiled her approval and gave him an intimate wink, and Dan mentally hugged himself with glee.


What furniture could not be transported had been stacked beneath dustsheets. Curtains were down and the pictures removed from the walls. On one small walnut table, pushed into a far corner, a shabby record player was set to play music, sixties tunes which Francine told the waiting guests was Jed's favourite. Uncle Kenny (not Dan's real uncle, but he'd always called him that) said if Francine believed that she'd believe anything, which Dan thought was unkind when she'd bought it specially for the party. Aunt Elsie taught him a lesson, though, by kicking his leg and telling him to mind his mouth. Uncle Kenny knew when he was beaten, 'cause he squatted on the lino and sulked. Nobody else spoke. They were all busy listening for footsteps in the road.
'It echoes, Mum,' said Dan, raising and lowering his voice to get the effect. 'Dad'll hate it.'
Francine shushed him and as she switched off the lights she ordered him to keep watch at the window. Thus, the cottage was in darkness when Jed arrived.
From his look-out position Dan saw his father hesitate beneath the lamp and clench his fists with irritation. Dan chuckled and shuffled his knees further on the chair until the carved wood dug in. He observed Jed advancing along the path to the front door, roughly brushing winter jasmine out of his way. Dan indicated by waving his arm that his father was on his way in.
Jed strode through the door, dejectedly dropping his haversack on the linoleum-covered floor and feeling for the light switch, missing Dan's head by an inch. A chorus of Happy Birthday greeted him, seconds before the light came on. Jed blinked, adjusting to the illumination, taking in the unexpected scene. Devoid of possessions, the room was filled with friends and neighbours, each holding a drink in one hand and a paintbrush in the other.
Dan was beside himself with triumph and delight. 'It's a decorating party,' he cried, rushing to drag Jed's rocker from the kitchen. 'Come on, Dad, sit down and have a drink.'
Ignoring Dan's outburst, Francine handed her husband a glass of apple cider. 'Happy fortieth, my darling,' she said.
'Some birthday with all this upheaval.'
'Don't you believe it,' shouted Kenny from the back. 'Wish Elsie could have come up with the idea on my big day.'
'You got extra jam on your tarts,' Elsie cried. 'What more did you want?'
Loud guffaws travelled through the gathering, followed by Dan's piping declaration that more jam on Aunt Elsie's tarts sounded like the most smashingest present.
Jed looked enquiringly at Francine. 'Am I expected to spend my birthday trimming the place up?'
'You're expected to do no such thing. You and Dan and I are going to The Lion for the night, while our remarkable friends get stuck in here. There's enough alcohol to see them through and plenty of food.' Francine ran a pink-tipped finger through his hair, 'It'll be the best birthday you've ever had,' she whispered in that voice she used whenever she playfully hid Dan's weekend sweets.


On Sunday afternoon a radiant Francine suggested that her two men go fishing while she began the clearing up. 'I want time alone,' she said, 'to dance through the cheery kitchen and saunter through the enchanting parlour.
Dan reminded himself not to mention that bit to Matt and Digger in case they thought his mother had gone nuts. Thrilled with the idea of going out, he adjusted his sweatshirt over his jeans and ducked to lace his trainers.
But Jed turned the proposal down.
Dan peered at him, unable to believe he'd heard right. 'Aw, Dad. It might be ages before we get another chance.'
Jed grinned. 'Fish don't bite on Sundays, lad. Now, why don't you pop next door and have yourself a plate of Elsie's strawberry tarts, while your mother and me catch up on some unfinished business. See, son, now that I'm forty I've got to keep abreast of family matters. And with a new baby due, I've got to make certain your Ma don't lift a finger unnecessarily.'
The concept of eating tarts until he was sick sent Dan scuttling through the door chanting, 'Fish don't bite on Sundays,' at the top of his shrill voice, but as he paused to pull the door shut, he saw Jed caress Francine's belly with his big hand and heard him say, 'Fish mayn't bite, but I sure do.'
Dan ran off, hoping his Dad wouldn't bite too hard and ruin things, not now Mum's headaches had gone and her temper had improved and a new baby was making her tummy swell. But he didn't dwell on it, 'cause the prospect of extra jam on Aunt Elsie's tarts was too powerful a thought to push out of his mind, though as he vaulted the gate to next door he thought how smashing it would be to teach a brother to fish and handle bait and use a proper rod.

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25 April 2014

POSH CARS... and how!

We were just leaving Moor Hall, where we'd had Saturday lunch, when we saw these cars. Unfortunately they weren't waiting for us. 
Aren't they beautiful? 

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23 April 2014

Sign of the Times

Not my fault!
He was drunk.
His brain
In a funk,
With Drugs.

Okay though
I was safe wiv me knife

Not MY fault!
He lashed out
Aimed for me face
Couldn’t have that -
Flippin’ disgrace!

Okay though
I still had me knife

Not my FAULT!
He shoulda
Stood back.
He shoulda known
I would attack

Okay then, I
Reached for the knife

Asked him outright
Your life or mine?
He didn’t reply
Didn’t give him
The time

Honest, Your Honour
It WASN’T my fault

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20 April 2014

Sunday Special

How wonderful is this?

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18 April 2014

The Last Word...

Stolen from fellow blogger, Troutbirder.... see here for full amusing post
A couple drove down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither of them wanted to concede their position. As they passed a barnyard of mules, jack asses, and pigs, the husband asked sarcastically, "Relatives of yours?"

"Yep," the wife replied, "in-laws."
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16 April 2014


She sat at the table next to mine, such a beautiful specimen of womanhood. Yes even at her ripe age, I guessed at around 75, she was pleasing to look at. I tried not to stare, I mean, it’s rude to stare, but since I had never seen anyone like her I couldn’t help it.

Her hair was creamy-white, so pure in colour it made her skin seem pale. They blended so well I found it difficult to see where the skin ended and hair began. I know that sounds silly but quite honestly the effect was outstanding.

Her neck was heavily wrinkled but the graceful way she held her head made it swanlike. She was elegant. Something I could never be.


Abbey wasn’t normally an eavesdropper but she could hardly miss the powerful description of an unknown woman from where she sat. Normally she would have a seat to herself on the 8.10 commuter train but today was Lady’s Day at Ascot so the train was full. She’d been lucky to get a seat at all.
In view of the recent upset with her mother Abbey found the conversation disturbing. Oh how she wished she hadn’t answered the phone. Or put it another way, how she wished the approaching 50th birthday could be a less traumatic event. If she could see her time over again she wouldn’t invite her mother to any birthday celebration and then she wouldn’t have to put up with comments about her hair, her figure, or her outfit. The cocktail dress had cost the earth and so would the hair do. The first time she’d had it coloured her mother proclaimed that it was dreadful; a repeat performance prior to her party would be unbearable! Oh how she wished she hadn’t invited her mother.

As the train entered the station Abbey glanced at her watch. She had time to kill before she needed to head towards the office. Maybe an espresso would calm her nerves. Bundling together her bag and coat she rose from the long seat at the same time as the grey haired man who’d sat opposite the whole journey. When the train lurched to a stop, the man staggered and fell against her, knocking her so hard her bag slipped to the floor. Both of them tried to save it, knocking heads and arms as they simultaneously reached out. Immediately Abbey felt some concern for he didn’t strike her as being very agile. Maybe the walking stick gave the wrong impression. Somewhat breathlessly, she thanked him and asked if he was okay.
            ‘I’m fine lass.’ The man winked and grinned mischievously.  ‘It’s not often I get thrown into the arms of an attractive young lady.’
            Abbey smiled and was about to contradict him with a self-preserving remark when he put a hand on her arm and smiled. ‘Allow me to escort you to the escalator,’ he said, ‘then perhaps you will join me for coffee in that newfangled station cafe.’
            A moment’s panic rose inside her, throwing Abbey completely off guard. She didn’t know this man and here he was inviting her for coffee. It was only when she sneaked a sideways glance that she saw him smile, somewhat benevolently, as he took her arm. ‘It’s okay,’ he said, in a hushed voice, ‘I am perfectly harmless and the cafe will be quite crowded.’
            Abbey grinned as she accepted his offer, feeling suddenly at ease. Something told her she could trust him. She hoped her instincts wouldn’t let her down.

They walked together along the platform towards the escalator. Before stepping on he paused to take Eve’s arm, a gesture she might have shrugged off had he been a younger man. It reminded her of her father, how he would always make sure she got on that first rising step without mishap ... whatever her age. He was a very protective man and she missed him terribly. Even now.

It wasn’t until they were seated, with two espressos in front of them, that he told her his name. Giles Hathaway. Eve thought it so fitted this well mannered gentleman. He told her he had two daughters and a pilot son, but his wife had died when the children were teenagers.  ‘Matilda was beautiful as well as elegant. She had it in mind to grow old gracefully; sadly she didn’t get the opportunity.’ Giles smiled, remembering. 
            ‘She sounds a lovely lady.’
‘Oh, she was, m’dear, and you remind me of her. I have seen you on the train many times and always thought how much you resemble her. The same stylish way of walking and such apparent grace.’


A week later, the day of the birthday party, Abbey stood in front of her dressing table mirror and gazed at her reflection. Her new lilac outfit was laid out on the bed, the silver sandals in a box by its side. She felt good. Since meeting Giles she felt her life had turned upside down. There was a new twinkle in her eye, repeatedly remarked upon by workmates.  She decided that no matter what her mother said, 50 wasn’t too bad an age after all.  Thanks to you, Giles Hathaway. For the first time in years she felt powerful and in control. Picking up a silver-backed hair brush she began gently to brush her hair. It was always a therapeutic exercise but now she felt quite rejuvenated and so pleased she had invited Giles to the party. A pity he turned it down. Such an unwarranted rejection. Again Abbey gazed at her reflection, lingered once more on the lifeless body that lay sprawled on her bed, the blood that had oozed from the fatal wound.  Mother would have something to say about this, she thought, if ever she finds out.

(Apologies for the weak ending. I didn't have time to play around with it since a new printer was playing up)

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14 April 2014


One day last week I decided to act on a recommendation for a DVD and purchase it from Amazon. The film was the 2013 version of The Great Gatsby. Amazon being Amazon they had it in stock so I ordered it straight away. Standard free delivery was chosen which meant a wait of about five days. Imagine my surprise when I received an email next day telling me it was being delivered there and then. Almost immediately after that, I received another message:


We’re going to deliver your order, containing the item(s) listed below,

  "The Great Gatsby [DVD + UV Copy] [2013]"

If there’s nobody in when we arrive we’ll post through your letter box if possible, leave with an available neighbour or in your preferred safe-place, if you’ve previously provided us with those details.

Notice they said delivery TODAY. 

The next message was even more of a surprise


Your order, containing the item(s) listed below,
has been posted through your letterbox.
  "The Great Gatsby [DVD + UV Copy] [2013]"

If there’s anything we can help you with, please contact Customer Service.
Actually, I heard the package being pushed through the letterbox so immediately went to collect it. That’s when I noticed the driver in a white van using his phone. Little did I realise he was sending me an email!

How’s that for service, or is it taking things too far?
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12 April 2014

Whatever the weather

Today Joe and I went to lunch at the Miller and Carter restaurant in Sutton Park. I have written before about Sutton Park and it's seven wonderful lakes but it is my favourite place so it's understandable that I keep bragging. There are many photographs of this place somewhere on my computer but right now I can't locate them. 

Powell Pool

It was a nice day to start with but the clouds soon blotted out the sunlight. Although it was quite windy the yachts were out in force. I suppose that's why yachtsmen are labelled as hardy souls. My seating position in the restaurant enabled me to see everything that was going on and what fun (!) to see a couple of yachts capsizing and the methods of righting them in roughish water. There were experts on hand to help with the procedure but they hovered while the yacht people sorted it out for themselves.

Pictures courtesy of

Oh it's great fun eating out!
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09 April 2014


Julia Smith wondered if at seventy-three she was too old for partying but Arthur Rowlands persuaded her otherwise.
'Never too old for a knees-up' he said as he pinned a corsage of orchids to the bodice of her long lilac gown.
'My knees wouldn't agree,' retorted Julia as she lowered her head to sniff the flowers. 
It was quite like old times. Cedric used to treat her like a duchess when they attended those wonderful balls. Arthur was a bit like him in that regard though not nearly as handsome. Julia scanned the row of photographs on the piano, all of Cedric, some with her, some without. He was very personable in his sea officer’s uniform. Her family thought it was the uniform that attracted her. They were wrong.
She had been a raw teenager when Cedric came into her life, a passerby in sailor’s uniform. The gang she was with dared her to touch his collar because it was said to bring good luck. Julia never refused a dare. And she didn’t need asking twice. Without further thought she raced after the very tall, handsome young man and when near enough she leaped up to touch the collar. What she didn’t realise was that because he was actually walking it would be more difficult to touch him. She fell flat on her face at his heels. And he made a joke about falling in love.

If anyone asked she used the same dialogue. Yes, she would say, we fell in love that day. Married five years later. No children. Cedric couldn’t, you see. But it was no problem because they had each other for fifty years.

Julia’s gaze slowly travelled round the room. It was here that he died, peacefully, in his chair. His mother's room, he called it, for he had filled it to capacity with her belongings, Victoriana and other objet d'art. In that matter Julia was not allowed a viewpoint. His mother's stuff was there to stay. Julia had grown up with it, so to speak, and she hadn’t the heart to dispose of it. It would be like defying Cedric and, although he was something of a tyrant, she had loved him totally.
'Penny for them, Julia.'
Majestically, Julia turned away from the piano. It was no good trying to recapture the past. Cedric had been dead for four years and, although she missed him dreadfully, she saw no sense in fading into decline. It wasn't in her to hanker for the unattainable. 'I was merely thinking how like Cedric you are. He was one for presenting me with flowers. Considerate. I like that in a man.' Julia reached out to touch Arthur's arm. 'I am grateful for your friendship, Arthur, and your willingness to befriend an old woman.'
Arthur snorted. 'Old, you say. Dear Julia, you will never be old in my eyes.'
'Well then, shall we venture to the party and witness the incredulity on your daughter’s face.' Picking up a tastefully wrapped parcel, Julia smiled coquettishly at her resplendently attired escort, his dinner jacket smelling only faintly of dry-cleaning fluid. Anticipating a splendid evening, with the requisite amount of gin to loosen her reserve and an occasional cigarette, if any were offered, Julia allowed herself to be guided to the door.

‘You look wonderful,' Arthur  said, guiding her through the gate so that her gown and matching coat didn’t touch the grimy wrought iron. Pinned to the front of Julia’s shoulder was Arthur’s unexpected gift. She took his arm and confessed that the orchids made her feel like a real lady.
Arthur’s reaction was swift, telling her firmly that she was a real lady and she was not to let anyone tell her otherwise. Tucking her hand into the crook of his arm, he said sincerely and quietly, 'I am the most fortunate of men.  I would be your slave if you would allow it, but I fear I do not come up to scratch.'

Julia cried out in mock indignation. 'Arthur Rowlands, you should be ashamed. I have never indicated such a thing.' She turned sideways to look at him, her eyes glinting with merriment. 'As a matter of fact, I think you would make an ideal man servant.'

She could tell by his face he thought she was joking. 
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06 April 2014


Watch right to the end then tell me if you laughed out loud

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04 April 2014


Don't you just love this time of year?

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02 April 2014

THE LONG WALK (repeat)

([picture courtesy of Faye)

The Long Walk
(Final part of Fear Awaits at Journey’s End)

The light was dimming and there was a cold chill that made Leonora shudder. She wasn’t sure whether to run or walk but one thing was sure, she simply had to get rid of the fear that gripped her heart as she passed the eerie growth on either side of the path. All around the winds whispered, a ghostly sound of unseen beings waiting to pounce. Leonora trembled and wished she’d listened to those friends who had urged her to catch the bus and go home the long way round. Who knew what lurked in that desolate place, they said.
Her house was situated on the furthest end of Hermitage Road and this newly laid path shortened the journey by twenty minutes. Going by bus would have been more sensible but after a few drinks with the girls she had lost the power of reasonable thought.
Leonora looked round quickly, fearing that some creature might have been behind her all the time. She saw nothing, her fear magnifying everything. Yet the footsteps sounded real, crunching against the frosty ground. The urge to run grew stronger but her feet were leaden. What would she do if her weary body couldn’t get her home before dark? Looking up at the sky she saw the clouds shift, revealing a pale moon. Perhaps it wouldn’t look so bad once moonlight emerged.
Leonora hadn’t been the same since that fearful incident on the train, when that dreadful Arthur Mott had … what? Done what? She had felt threatened by him but he didn’t actually do … anything … to harm her. And he hadn’t been charged with anything.
Things had been hectic at work. The bosses wanted everything done at the same time. Her fingers ached from high speed typing, and so did her back. She felt tired, knew she shouldn’t have come this way. Other times the walk had been refreshing, but not tonight. The moon, high in the darkening sky, looked menacing. She wouldn’t have been surprised to see a black cat sitting on it. Was a black cat supposed to bring good luck or was it a symbol of bad things, haunting things?
Leonora took a few more tentative steps, fearing the dark, fearing the twigs that reached out and snagged her hair. In the distance an owl called, its cry more like a baby than a bird. A crying babe.  Leonora mentally shook herself, told herself not to be silly. Taking a tight grip on her fear she hurried on, following the path round, hoping street lights would soon be seen.


Godfrey Hastings rang the bell and for good measure knocked again on Leonora’s door. He’d been sure she would have been home from her new office job by now but there was no sign of her. He still couldn’t understand why she wanted to go out to work, but appreciated that being with people probably did her more good than living alone in this desperately quiet area.
While he tried to decide whether he should wait or come back later he saw her hurrying along the road. His heart did its familiar lurch at the sight of her. Even in the dark she looked beautiful. He couldn’t wait to take her in is arms and gaze into those welcoming almond shaped eyes.
Leonora was so pleased to see him. She thought again that it must have been an act of God that caused them to meet on the train a mere two months ago. They got on so well. Each time they met she felt as though they had been friends forever. She hurried the last few yards and threw herself into his waiting arms.  For no apparent reason they both laughed, such was their relationship.


After supper Leonora curled up at Godfrey’s side on the lounge sofa. The room was lit by firelight and table lamps, giving a romantic feel to the stylish room. ‘I feel safe in this room,’ she said, unaware that she had even thought about it. Her nerves seem to have been rattled since taking the short-cut home.
Godfrey took her right hand in his, lovingly ran his thumb across the raised veins that emphasised the elegance of her tapering fingers. ‘What made you say that?’ he asked.
Leonora snuggled into him, told him about the walk home, even laughed about her fear. ‘My imagination ran amok,’ she said. ‘I even thought the twigs were out to get me.’
Godfrey laughed with her, even though he understood what she meant. He had taken that walk one day, though not at night, and could imagine the effect it would have on someone with a nervous disposition. Not that he thought Leonora was a nervous person but he knew she was still troubled about that awful Arthur Mott.  
Leonora shifted her position slightly so that she could look at Godfrey’s face. Still holding his hand, she told him about a recent strange experience. ‘I was in the bedroom getting ready for work. There was a strange noise downstairs, in the kitchen, like something falling. I went to investigate but couldn’t find anything amiss. It must have been my imagination. But I heard it again the next day. Whatever it was clanged on the quarry tiles. Again, I found nothing. But the funny thing was I spotted one of my visiting cards on the floor. I don’t know how it got there but it couldn’t have made a noise, could it?’


Arthur Mott strolled past the house, noticed the light showing through a crack in the curtains of a downstairs window. He pressed his hands to his stomach in an effort to control his fluttering anticipation and remembered his mother’s warning not to act hastily when he was excited. Even as a young boy he always obeyed her wishes. The consequence of disobedience saw to that. For an instant he visualised the cane coming down on his naked manhood. Quickly he brushed the vision away. He didn’t want his dead mother interfering in what he had to do, even though it was all for her.


Next morning Godfrey sat at his desk at the station, musing over the mysterious happenings at Leonora’s house. Things that go bump in the night was an expression dreamed up by storytellers, it just didn’t happen in real life. To his way of thinking if Leonora had heard something then there was something there to be heard. She wasn’t an imaginative woman; neither did she make stuff up. He would have to keep an eye on things. If he had pursued their budding romance a little more perhaps by now he would be spending nights there. He had to admit he quite fancied sharing her bed.
Godfrey’s mind wandered, thinking now of their more passionate embraces and wondering why she gently but firmly brushed him off. Although a little on the plump side he was well groomed and reasonably good looking. Reaching into the top drawer of his desk he withdrew a hand mirror, kept there for when he needed to shave before going out on a job. He studied his face. Admittedly his nose was rather aquiline but it wasn’t ugly. And his skin was perfect clear, not a spot nor a blemish in sight. Right now he was in need of a shave but that was only to be expected at this time of day.  
The buzzing telephone distracted his personal scrutiny. ‘Yes?’ he barked into the received.
            ‘Private call for you,’ said the station secretary. ‘Mrs Deloitte.’
            ‘Put her through, Maisie.’
            Leonora started to speak before Godfrey could say Hello. ‘Oh Godfrey, thank God you’re there.’
‘Leonora? What on earth’s wrong?’
‘I’ve just seen that dreadful man walk past the house. I’m certain it was him. I was in the bedroom. He looked up, as if he knew I was there, but he couldn’t have known, could he? Not with the nets there. He couldn’t have seen through the nets, could he?’ Oh Godfrey, I’m so scared.’
‘Leonora, my love, calm down. You’re right he couldn’t have seen you unless, of course, you had the light on.’ Godfrey swivelled round to face the window as if to verify the state of the light outside. ‘When you say that man, I assume you mean Arthur Mott. But it couldn’t be him, my darling. He doesn’t know where you live.’
And we don’t know his whereabouts either.
A neighbouring force had issued notices that Mott was wanted for questioning about a recent accost situation. The girl had only brief glimpses of her assailant as he attacked from behind but she got a good look when she employed her martial arts training. Unfortunately, the guy had managed to get away but she lost no time reporting the matter to the police and handing over the knife that had fallen to the ground. Godfrey thought hard about that knife, remembering the case for which Mott did time, when he’d cut the letters IAM in the victim’s bedroom door. I AM. I, Arthur Mott.
Leonora had been so screwed up she hadn’t thought that Arthur Mott couldn’t possibly know where she lived. After a while she managed to pull herself together and went on to discuss the arrangements for an evening out. ‘I’ll wear my finest outfit,’ she said, ‘I don’t want to let you down in front of your colleagues.’
‘That, my dear, would be impossible.’ Godfrey knew that she would be a knock-out with the men at the police ball. They would be jealous as hell when they saw his elegant companion. If all went well tonight would be the turning point in their relationship. He wanted the evening to be as pleasurable for her as it would be for him because at the end of it he intended to ask her to marry him. Maybe later he would tell her about the recent development, reassure her that he would guard her with his life.


Arthur Mott had been here so often he knew the signs of occupancy. When she was at home there was always a light in the front porch, when she was out the place was in total darkness. Not very clever, he thought. Anyone would know it was safe to break in with regular signals like that. But he had the place to himself and had chosen to try out her bed while he waited.
Lying on Leonora’s bed he gazed at the ceiling, thinking back to when he followed her along that dark path. He could have got her then but her fear stopped him. Sensing her fright and hearing panic in her breath was like an aphrodisiac. It had been a long time since he was turned on by sheer apprehension. He wanted to continue terrorising; the heavy, heady stuff would come later.
He could feel the warmth of the duvet beneath him and debated whether or not to actually climb inside. ‘What should I do, Mother? ‘Of course, he knew the answer. She would want him to undress and wait for Leonora. Wait for her to exclaim in delight about his body, to insist on joining him under the pale blue cover. Quickly he checked the pillows and decided that one would be enough to complete his task. Despite his size he was a strong man and he didn’t think too much pressure would be required.
The digital clock on the bedside table said 12.15. She was very late coming home. Other nights he had watched her she had been home at a reasonable hour, 10,30 had been the latest. Except when that awful Godfrey was with her, then they were much earlier. Arthur allowed himself to wonder what they got up to when they were alone in her house but then he thought about his mother and pushed those thoughts away.
Leonora was exactly what his mother liked in a woman and Arthur was prepared to go along with her wishes that he take another one in deference to her. Not for him a compliant plump beauty, not until his mother’s desires had been fulfilled. For an instance rebellion took over. One day, he thought, one day I’ll consider myself for a change.


Leonora and Godfrey strolled from the garage, arms entwined, matching each other’s steps as they neared Godfrey’s front door. ‘I had a wonderful time tonight,’ she said, raising her face for another kiss.
Leonora had looked stunning in the lilac dress, with her greying hair decorated with a matching flower just above her left ear. He had seen the approving glances of his mates, with a wink or two thrown in for good measure, and he felt proud to be the escort of such a beautiful woman.   
Placing his lips on hers Godfrey murmured that he too had enjoyed it. He remembered that feeling of joy as they danced the last waltz, when she whispered that she loved him. Oh and how he loved her in return.  
Because of the lateness of the hour Leonora had agreed to stay at Godfrey’s house, although both knew that the lateness of the hour had little to do with the reason for staying. They simply wanted to be together.


It was nearly 2 o’clock in the morning before Arthur finally accepted the idea that Leonora wasn’t coming home. Thrusting back the duvet he shot out of Leonora’s bed and started to collect his clothes that had been strewn anywhere in his hurry to accommodate his mother.  ‘You’ll be the death of me,’ he cried. ‘Perhaps when I contribute another naked offering you’ll give me some peace. Sitting on the side of the bed, he retrieved his knife from under the pillow, put it in his trouser pocket. He slipped on the brown shoes, laced them, and remembered his mother’s brief reincarnation, her eyes flashing as she covered him with her putrid flesh and worked him over with stubby fingers that gripped too hard.
He stormed down the stairs and into the hall. Pulling open the front door he glanced left and right to see if anyone was in sight. He wouldn’t want to be caught without having achieved his goal.


Godfrey had the day off, so Leonora rang the office to request a day’s leave. They needed to enjoy the newness of their romance, being together was all they wanted. Wearing the jeans and low cut linen blouse that she’d brought with her prior to the ball, they lazed about, sometimes in practical mood but mostly wrapped in an invigorating cloak of passion. They adored each other and Leonora was amazed that grandmother status hadn’t got in the way of worshipping her jolly and caring man. They made plans, the first one being for her to introduce Godfrey to her family.
‘We could go for a weekend,’ Godfrey said. ‘On the train, relive the day we met.’
But the day was not one Leonora wanted to remember so she suggested that a leisurely drive down would be preferable. Godfrey could have kicked himself for his stupidity. Still debating the point they had a late breakfast of fresh grapefruit and mushroom omelets cooked to perfection by Godfrey.
Midmorning they went for a walk. Although cold the day was spring-like. The sun was shining and the birds were having a free-for-all on the roof tops. Holding Leonora’s arm Godfrey steered her towards the local park, through the iron gates, and across the damp grass to the lake. It was beautiful. A perfect setting for romantic lovers. ‘I was wondering,’ he said, as they approached a wooden bench, ‘if you felt the same as me.’
‘I think so,’ Leonora replied, inwardly trying to speculate what was to come next.
Godfrey sat on the bench, pulled her down beside him. Holding her hand, he looked deep into her eyes. ‘I was wondering if you would marry me. I mean we get on so well in all respects and I thought … well, I hoped we could make it a permanent fixture.’ 
Leonora laughed and squeezed his hand. ‘Now you’re thinking about football again.’
Godfrey flushed and wished he’d had the sense to choose his words more carefully. ‘I didn’t mean…’
‘I know what you meant.’ Leonora leaned against him, thinking what a comfort he was, how solid, and how much she loved him. ‘Marrying you would make me the happiest woman in the world.’
Godfrey was overcome with emotion.


In the moonlight Arthur Mott walked slowly, thinking about the time he’d followed Leonora along the same isolated path. He’d been careless then, not even attempting to disguise his footsteps. Now he made sure each step was noiseless by walking on the grass verge. Practising. Just in case. Practice makes perfect, his mother always said. And she should know. Reaching the end of the hedge he could see Leonora’s house. It was a splendid, well kept house, and right now only the porch was lit.
An inspection, front and back, told him she was probably in bed. Bedroom curtains were never drawn when she was out. Quite casually he returned to the back of the house and entered through the back door. It was one of those doors with an easy Yale plus a mortise that was obviously seldom used by an owner who failed to recognise the need for self-protection.
Silently pushing open the door he moved into the kitchen, smelled again the lingering aroma of cooking. He imagined her to be a good cook, not in the least worried about diets. Arthur swore when his foot caught in the rug. Trying to free it made him stumble against the table, sending a couple of cups crashing to the floor. Damn stupid having loose rugs in a kitchen, he thought. That was the problem with moving round in the dark. He’d found the light switch but decided against illuminating the kitchen in case the neighbours were nosy-parkers.  Because of that slight accident he now had to wait until he was sure the noise hadn’t disturbed Leonora before going upstairs and surprising her while she slept.
He leaned against a tall cupboard and allowed Leonora’s image to enter his mind. How would she be dressed? Would she be wearing a nightdress or PJs? Or would she be naked. He hoped the former, wanting more than anything to tear the clothes off her before she was fully awake, quickly overpowering her as realisation hit home. Quickly he checked that his new knife and sticky tape were still in his pocket. The rope was loosely tied round his middle, one jerk and it was ready to tie her to the bed.
Arthur swallowed hard, taking control of his thoughts.  


Leonora never drew the bedroom curtains. She liked to sleep in a moonlit room or, when there was no moon, use a bedside lamp just powerful enough to see where she was going. She nuzzled Godfrey’s neck and kissed his ear, enjoying the warmth of his body and giving silent thanks that this man would soon be hers. Now that they had decided to marry they saw no reason why they shouldn’t spend all their time together. Godfrey was asleep but Leonora’ mind was too full of wedding plans to sleep.
She gazed at the lacy design reflected on the ceiling. Maybe a lace veil would be too much for a mature bride. She liked the idea of an all white wedding but thought a second time round didn’t warrant it. But the grandchildren would look lovely in wedding finery. Maybe she …
Suddenly she sat up; sure that she’d heard a noise downstairs. Slowly she eased her legs out of bed, trying not to disturb Godfrey. Sliding her arms into a blue dressing gown, she crept towards the door, opened it, and listened. Except for her beating heart, everything was quiet. It must have been her imagination playing tricks. Outside some cats were squabbling, it could have been that which disturbed her.
She went to the window, thinking to shoo them away, opened it and breathed in the night air, seeing the shadows cast by the moon. The apple tree looked gaunt in the half light; there was an eerie feel about it. So much for romantic moonlit nights, she thought, remembering the fearful walk along that lonely path.
For several days she’d experienced bad feelings especially at night. There was something about the house, this room that disturbed her, especially when she found her bed unmade. Something she rarely overlooked even when she was late. It felt almost as if another presence shared it with her. Though it was reasonably warm in the room she shivered, then chastised herself for being silly. Leonora yawned. This is no good, she thought. I need to get back to sleep. But she knew that wouldn’t happen until she’d had a drink. A cup of tea would be just the thing. 
Although Geoffrey was a light sleeper he didn’t risk sinking into oblivion. He needed to be alert but calm enough not to worry Leonora. He’d stirred just as Leonora swung her legs out of bed but he hadn’t expected her to spend time gazing out of the window. ‘What’s up, honey, can’t you sleep?
Leonora laughed. ‘Go back to dreamland while I fetch us both a nice warm drink.’ She heard again the odd noise that had disturbed her a short while ago.
Godfrey heard it too. Sliding out of bed, he grabbed his trousers, pulled them on, slid his bare feet into his shoes, then snatched up his mobile phone from the bedside cabinet. Listened again to the noise, guessed at it being the kitchen drawer, the one that jammed half way.  ‘Stay here,’ he ordered. ‘Probably cats out in the yard. I’ll go down and sort them out.’


Arthur heard her coming. He cursed. This wasn’t part of the plan. He wanted her upstairs, not here where there was a good chance a neighbour would see a light going on. He’d done time for the last one, he didn’t want to end up there again. Moving at a rapid pace he headed towards the kitchen door through which his victim would appear, one arm ready to grab her the second she was through. In his hand was the pad he would use to stifle a scream before she uttered it. Chloroform. Enough to knock her out until he could secure her to the bed. The one he’d slept on, the one where she would sleep her last. He felt the saliva gathering in his mouth, a measure of his excitement. His smile was evil. Yes, his mother would be well pleased with this one.
He was ready. Pad in hand, he stood by the door, silently waiting for it to open. A few minutes and she would be his.


Godfrey had often been told by his mates that he had a sixth sense but this was one time when he knew what was going on.  It wasn’t a hunch… he just knew. He’d seen vengeance in Mott’s eyes the last time he was picked up. And now he was up against him again, man to man. It remained to be seen who the best man was and Godfrey was highly confident that it would not be Arthur Mott.
Godfrey’s cautious nature made him pause outside the door and listen. He could swear he heard heavy breathing on the other side. Instinctively he knew that it was Arthur Mott, and only a door separated them. If he stayed quiet Mott would soon step through to check the hallway and stairs. There was only one possible escape route and that was the way he’d come in.  
It was good thinking on Godfrey’s part to secure the front door before escorting Leonora upstairs, taking the house keys with him. If only he’d remembered her dislike of over-locking, hating to think she couldn’t get out of the house in an emergency. He should be horse-whipped for trusting her word that she’d securely locked the back door.  Some perishing copper he was! Well, let’s get something right, let’s catch the bastard and skin him alive!.
Right now, the surprise element was on his side. Godfrey waited for the overconfident pervert to push open the door that led to the stairs. There was just enough room for him to remain out of sight until Mott was at the right level to receive the full weight of Godfrey’s karate chop to the back of the neck, backed up by other blows. He was still unconscious when the squad car arrived. ‘Thank God for mobile phones,’ he said to the recumbent form of Arthur Mott as Leonora opened the door to the first copper.


She would never forget that day, the discovery of Arthur Mott’s initials on the pantry door, the relief on Godfrey’s face when that evil man was handcuffed and taken away, the slow evaporation of her own fear. Godfrey’s assertion that he had let her down was received with scorn; how could he think that when he had literally saved her life? A lot of time was spent on conjecture and supposition but today was their special day and there wasn’t a soul in the world that could spoil it for them.
Leonora’s smile was radiant as she looked into Godfrey’s eyes at the end of the wedding ceremony. She was so proud that she had married a brave man, one who cared deeply for her, who had promised before God to take care of her for the rest of their days.

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