Monthly Archives: May 2014

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

 

Abi put the lid back on the lipstick and checked her face. That’ll do. She was now in her mid-forties, and while she tried to keep up her appearance like she used to, her enthusiasm was waning. What was the point? Andy never seemed to care what she looked like. He never noticed what she was wearing either. They were going out for a drink, and as far as she could make out, he wouldn’t have minded if she was wearing a hoodie and jeans.

As it was, she had chosen trousers and a top rather than a dress. They were only going to the pub with some friends, but she felt she should make a bit of an effort. Women have to. Men can get away with so much more. Or should that be less.

She made sure the bedroom door was shut, and took her dressing gown off to get dressed. When she had been with Will, she would have been perfectly happy wandering around naked all day. With Andy, she never felt comfortable, and she would only really let him see her naked on the odd occasion they had sex. Otherwise, she would at least have her knickers on, if not a bra.

She got dressed slowly; she wasn’t in any hurry. The friends they were going to see were lovely. They weren’t the problem; Andy was.

She’d welcomed his phone call the day Will had left. They’d been close since she had met Will, and had often talked through problems together. That had been an issue for Will, who had felt betrayed by both his wife and his best friend when the two of them discussed his own shortcomings, but she had explained to Will that Andy needed a woman to talk to. He had never had a girlfriend, and she was like a sister to him. On the day that she had told Will to leave, Andy had offered to come round to give her some company, and she had accepted gladly.

Five years on, she now knew why he had been on her doorstep so quickly. He had been waiting for that moment for nearly twenty years. He must have been climbing into his car while Will was still telling him what had happened.

Which didn’t necessarily mean that he had been desperate to get into her knickers. He might just as easily have felt he wanted to help one of his best friends in her hour of need. There again, that didn’t explain why he hadn’t offered to help his best friend in his hour of need.

No, she had been vulnerable, and he had seen an opportunity. She had been very grateful at the time, although not too grateful for the first few days; that had come a bit later, after they had shared a couple of bottles of wine and the evening had turned to sex talk. Andy had suggested a game of strip poker, and that was that.

Maybe that was why she still felt uncomfortable with him seeing her naked.

There was no hope of delaying it any longer. She picked up her handbag from the bed, checked her make up one last time, and went downstairs.

Andy was slumped in his armchair, watching Strictly Come Dancing. He looked up as she came in the room. “Ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” she replied.

“Come on, then. Let’s get this over with.”

“Well, how do I look?”

“Nice. Lovely. Super.” They were all said without enthusiasm. Just stock answers, words that he said every time.

“Thanks. Good to know I’ve still got it,” Abi said sarcastically.

“You’re welcome. Come on, let’s get going. I need a drink. I’ll drive there, you can drive back. OK?”

“No, it’s not, but as that’s what we always do, why would I want to change things? So long as you get your alcohol down your neck, then that’s fine by you. I can’t remember the last time you drove home.”

“Two years ago, when we went out for dinner with your parents. It was one of the worst evenings of my life, having to sit listening to your dad telling me about his allotment with nothing more than a diet Coke to numb the pain.”

“Well, if you’re that sad that you can only enjoy yourself when you’re drunk, then I feel very sorry for you. Come on, you’re right; let’s get this over with. I don’t think I want to spend too much time with you this evening. And don’t worry about how much you drink. I’ll be quite happy for you to pass out, and then spend all day tomorrow feeling like shit.”

Abi turned and walked straight to the front door, went outside and got in the driver’s seat. Well, if she was going to drive home, she may as well drive there as well. Andy’s driving was too fast for her, and she had never felt comfortable being his passenger.

Before, Will had always driven. It was an unwritten rule, especially after the children had been born. The only times he had been a passenger was if he had been feeling ill. Will didn’t drink very much, so if they did go out, which wasn’t very often, he would always drive. And that was fine by her.

Sitting in the car waiting for Andy, she thought again about Will. Tonight he was going on a date, the first one since they had split up. Her emotions were all over the place. Pleased for Will, as she wanted him to be happy. Sad to think that she would no longer be his only girlfriend. Anxious that it would go well, with just a hint of hope that it wouldn’t. She knew it was wrong to feel that way, but just a tiny part of her liked knowing that she was the only woman he had ever loved, and had sex with. She didn’t want him back, but she did like the feeling of being special. That was something Andy had never been able to achieve.

“What are you doing? I said I’d drive,” Andy said as he sat in the passenger seat.

“Well, I’ve decided I’m going to drive both ways. I thought you’d be pleased.”

“Sure. Whatever. Just don’t drive too slowly, that’s all.”

Abi didn’t say anything, she just put the car in gear and drove in silence to the pub.

For a fleeting moment, as she walked through the door to meet their friends, she wished it was her that Will was taking out to dinner tonight.

 

* * *

 

Abi lay in bed watching TV – alone. She had left Andy downstairs, slumped in front of the TV, snoring loudly. She’d rather leave him where he could do his snoring, farting and all the irritating things he did when he had been drinking and she hadn’t.

She had actually enjoyed the evening, even if Andy had got drunk, and had spent the journey home talking about, and the ten minutes he had stayed awake once they got there trying, to get into her knickers. She knew he would give up eventually, and even if she had agreed, the chances of him being able to perform were remote. She was actually surprised, and somewhat relieved that he wasn’t currently naked from the waist down. For some reason, he hadn’t got that far.

So she had come up to bed, with a cup of tea and the hopes of an uninterrupted night’s sleep. It was 12.45, and she really should have been asleep by now, but her mind wouldn’t let her. She couldn’t stop wondering about Will.

And she really couldn’t figure out why.

It was pathetic, to be honest. He was a spineless wimp, who had done nothing to try and win her back, instead accepting her decision to throw him out without a word. He had just picked up the bag she had packed for him, and left. Of course, if he had put up a fight, she would have still told him to leave, because on that day she’d had enough. But as the years had gone by, and he had made a real effort to get his life in order, she began to wonder if it had been the right thing to do.

The answer was yes: she knew that. If they had carried on the way they were, her life would have been hell, and his would have continued in the same lethargic way, with no point and no purpose.

No, there was no doubt she had made the right decision. So why was she lying here, worrying about her ex-husband, while her current boyfriend was comatose downstairs? OK, Andy would have been downstairs anyway. There was no way he was going to sleep in the same bed as her when he was so drunk. The smell alone was enough to wake the dead.

But Will on the other hand.

She had been thinking about him more and more lately, as she had slowly come to the conclusion that Andy was becoming a bigger waste of space than his former best friend.

Divorce. Their marriage would be over sometime soon. All the happy years at the start wasted, except for the production of two children. Two children who still didn’t know their parents were going through the divorce process. Quite when they were going to tell them she wasn’t sure, but she hoped Will would be there with her when they found out. She really needed his support. God knew, Andy wouldn’t be interested.

Now it really was time for sleep. She threw all but one of her pillows on the floor, put the TV on standby, and turned out the light. As she lay in the dark, trying to get to sleep, she couldn’t help wondering how Will’s evening had gone. For his sake, she hoped it had gone well. For her own, she wasn’t so sure.

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Chapter 3

Three Years Later

 

Will checked his watch for the third time in a minute. As he did so, he put his right hand in his jacket pocket, and touched the nearly empty cigarette packet; he’d stopped smoking three months previously, but as an aid, he’d kept one in reserve. Just knowing it was there should he need it was a comfort, and so far it had worked. He wasn’t sure that it would tonight, however. He’d never been on a blind date before.

After three years of inactivity on the girlfriend front, Sonia had suggested he go for a meal with Tina, a friend of Sonia’s sister. All Will knew about her was that she was in her mid-forties, divorced and childless. He was happy about the childless part. Not that he expected tonight to turn into a long-term relationship, but in case she was the woman of his dreams, he’d rather she came unencumbered. He didn’t know how he’d get on with someone else’s children.

He checked his watch again. 8.29 on a Saturday evening. They’d arranged to meet at 8.30 outside the Slug and Lettuce; a stupid name for a pub, but it was close to the restaurant they were going to. He’d thought long and hard about where to go, as he didn’t want to look cheap, but at the same time he couldn’t afford anywhere expensive. A curry or a Chinese seemed too obvious. He thought about Italian, but was always fearful of eating spaghetti in public; he’d ruined too many silk ties over the years.

So Thai was the final choice. He had never had it before, but everyone he knew seemed to think it was the finest food on the planet, so it seemed like he should at least try it. Hopefully Tina would like it. She’d seemed keen when they had spoken on the phone earlier in the week.

8.31. OK, now she’s late. Will hated lateness, regardless of what he was doing or who was late. ‘Better to be half an hour early than a minute late’ was his motto. Never mind, don’t get upset. It’s only a minute. You’ve got the whole evening ahead of you. Just because you’ve been here since five to eight.

He really wanted a cigarette, but it was too late now. If he’d had one when he first got there, he might have got away with it, but he didn’t want to be smoking as she turned up, in case it put her off.

He walked over to the restaurant to look at the menu for the third time, on the basis that the more he looked at it, the less time he would need to choose once they got there. Whenever that may be.

8.35. He walked back to the pub. Standing outside looking around her was a woman who clearly was there to meet someone. OK, let’s have a quick assessment before we say hello. Smart, but not in an expensive way. The dress looks like it came from M&S, which is fine by me. That’s pretty much where all my clothes have come from. Natural blonde? I can’t see any roots, so I’m guessing yes. Good looking, in a mid-forties sort of way. Well-rounded figure, which is just what I’m looking for.

“Hi, are you Tina?”

“Yes. You must be Will. You’re just as Sonia described.”

“Hopefully, that’s a good thing,” he said, offering his hand. He knew it was a bit of a lame thing to say, but he hadn’t been on a date since he had first taken Abi to the park for lunch twenty five years ago. He was a bit rusty when it came to small talk.

Tina took his hand, and pulled him towards her to kiss him on the cheek. “Lovely to meet you.”

What the fuck? I’ve only just this minute met you. I didn’t kiss Abi until the third date at least, and here you are assuming that I’m going to be happy for you to invade my personal space and plant your lips on my cheek?

Will didn’t even kiss his sister on the odd occasions that they saw each other. Apart from Abi, the only other woman he had felt comfortable kissing had been his mother, on the cheek, obviously, but since she had died the previous year, and he had been separated from Abi for five years, close contact with women had been restricted to accidently touching them on the bus whilst trying to get past.

“Right, well, OK. Do you want a drink in here first, or shall we go straight to the restaurant?” Will tried not to sound too bumbling and nervous. A drink would be a good idea as far as he was concerned, and would help settle his nerves. Hopefully.

“Ooh, a drink first, please. Come on, I’ll get them.”

She walked through the door and up to the bar to order. “A large vodka and tonic please. And you, Will?”

“A pint of lager, please. Are you sure you don’t want me to get these?”

“No, that’s fine. You can get the next one.”

While the barman was pouring his pint, Will had a look around the pub to see if there were any empty tables. It was a fairly new place, and the décor was a bit too modern for his taste in pubs. Metal framed mirrors on every wall, and metal framed glass top tables. What’s wrong with some wood? Even worse than the metal were the sofas and armchairs at the front of the pub, placed in the window so passers-by would be fooled into thinking this was a place to sit and wile away the afternoon nursing a single cup of coffee and reading the Guardian from cover to cover. He’d tried it once (not the Guardian, obviously; he hadn’t sunk that low) and after half an hour the staff had asked that he either order something else or leave. He left.

“Do you fancy sitting in the window?” Tina picked up her glass and started walking towards the sofas before he had a chance to answer. Thankfully for Will, they were all taken. “Never mind, here’s a table. We can take this and move over if anyone leaves.” Will hadn’t actually said anything since picking up his glass at the bar. He feared he could tell how the evening was going to progress.

The table was against the wall. Will sat down and took a long drink, while he thought of something to say. What do you for a living? Where do you live? Have you been on holiday yet? With this line of patter, would I have been better off being a hairdresser?

He needn’t have worried. Tina got the conversation going herself.

“Now, I guess we’d better tell each other a little about ourselves. I’ll start. I’m in my forties, been divorced for five years, no children thank God. I work for the local council. I like reading and walking, but most of all I like to have good-looking men buy me dinner and get me drunk.”

Oh shit. This had all the signs of being an expensive night.

Will took a drink and quickly summed up what she had said before responding. Right, she’s in her forties. Not her ‘early’ forties or even her ‘mid’ forties. So I’d say late forties. Not that it matters. So am I. Not so sure about the ‘no children thank God’ bit though. Does she hate children, or is she glad they didn’t have to go through the divorce? Reading is good. Walking I could tolerate. Getting her drunk sounds expensive and like it might lead to something. Oh, dear.

“Well, OK. Over to me. I’m also in my forties, although not for long. I’ve been separated for five years, and I believe the Decree Nisi will be through soon. Two children, a girl of fifteen and a boy of thirteen. I work for a bank, I like reading and watching TV, listening to music. But I’m not a big drinker, I’m afraid.”

God, Will, you can sound boring at times.

“Decree Nisi? When? We should be celebrating. Drink up, I’ll buy you another.”

“Why?” Suddenly he felt rather irritated.

“Because the first one was to say hello. The second one is to toast your divorce.”

The irritation didn’t last long. Now it was full-blown anger.

“No, I don’t mean why are you buying me another drink. I mean why should we be celebrating? It’s a divorce. I haven’t won the lottery, or discovered a cure for cancer, or even found a new job. My marriage will be over. Finished. The only woman I have ever loved will no longer be my wife. And you want to get drunk? I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m quite ready to see the positives. I’m also not ready to be dating other women. I think I’d best go home. Sorry to have wasted your evening.”

He stood up, nodded his head towards her, and walked out of the pub. She didn’t say a word.

Fuck Thai. I’m going for a kebab.

The bus stop was just down the road, a little too close to the pub for his liking, so he continued walking, heading for the next stop. As he walked he had his hand in his jacket pocket, feeling the cigarette packet, opening and closing the box to run his finger over the little white tube like it was a security blanket.

How dare she? Why would I want to celebrate? Or more to the point, why would she? Not only have we only just met, but she hasn’t the faintest idea of what Abi is like and whether there is even a reason to rejoice. Added to which, it hasn’t even happened yet. It’s hardly something to be celebrating.

He continued walking, not noticing that he had already passed the next bus stop. As the shops ended and the road became lined with houses he looked around in realisation. Ah well, I may as well carry on walking now. It was only a mile or so to his flat, and the exercise would build up his appetite nicely for an extra-large doner kebab and maybe some baklava for dessert.

Half an hour later he could see the kebab shop in the distance, with a few youths hanging around outside. As he got closer, he could see that they were not the intimidating kind, more middle class university types, no doubt lining their stomachs before a night of drinking.

A couple of them looked at him as he walked past and into the shop, so he gave them a slight smile and walked straight in.

The shop was empty; 9.15 was a little too early for most people to be tucking into a spicy meat-filled pita, but that was fine by Will. He was looking forward to getting home before the pubs started to empty and the fast food places started to fill up.

“Hello.”

“Good evening, sir. How are you?”

“I’m fine thank you. Can I have an extra-large doner and a piece of baklava, please?”

“Certainly sir. Would you like a drink?”

“Yes please, I’ll have a Tango. Thank you.”

Five minutes later the pita had been warmed and was in the process of being stuffed with sliced meat, which was supposedly minced lamb, but Will had his doubts. It could have been horse for all he knew, but he couldn’t care less so long as it tasted OK.

“Chilli sauce and salad, sir?”

“Yes please. Just lettuce and tomato, please. No cabbage.”

“Yes sir.”

Will left the shop clutching his plastic carrier bag containing the warm kebab, not quite chilled enough can of Tango and fresh out of the chiller cabinet baklava, safe in the knowledge that by the time he got home their temperatures would have moved further towards equilibrium than he would have liked, but so long as the kebab was still warm, he didn’t really mind.

Now all he had to worry about was what to say to Sonia Monday morning. Boy, was she going to be mad.

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Vegan Pizzas

Well, I did say I would be changing my diet, and looking for ideas for low fat versions of favourite foods. To be fair, I have been making vegan pizzas for some time, as my wife is a non-dairy vegetarian, so this is nothing new.

And to be completely honest, because I am having to take things easy following my recent hospital visit, I didn’t make the two pizzas I have shown here – my wife did. And bloody good they were too.

Image

Both have houmous as the base sauce, rather than tomato. Toasted pine nuts, caramelized onions, peppers, tofu, and on one a mix of spinach, rocket and water cress, the other mango and chilli sauce.

No cheese in sight. But you know what? You don’t need it. not every time, anyway.

Image

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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

 

Will was trying very hard to keep a positive mental attitude, but sitting on the bus in a window seat, with a man beside him who clearly hadn’t had his weekly bath the previous evening, and judging by his constant sniffing had left his handkerchief behind for his mother to iron, was pushing his patience to its outer limits.

However, this was day two of his new life, so he wasn’t going to let a smelly, snotty forty-something mummy’s boy spoil his mood. He wanted to be in good spirits when he greeted Sonia with a cheery smile and a nice cup of tea. So, he just looked out of the window, and tried to blot out the noise by singing as much as he could remember of Pink Floyd’s Money in his head. He had never liked the idea of travelling with earphones stuck in his ears, but at that moment he considered it might be an option for future mornings, if only to ensure that he didn’t arrive at the office prepared for mass-murder.

Thankfully for him, and indeed even more so for his colleagues, he was in no such frame of mind when he arrived at his desk around half an hour earlier than normal. He had been so excited about the day ahead that he had got up early, showered, shaved and performed other acts beginning with ‘sh’ in record time, and rushed out to catch the early bus. Now, as he stood in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil, he regretted the fact that in all his excitement he had forgotten to eat breakfast.

Never mind, someone was bound to have a biscuit or something he could nick later. Eric, the current interloper between Will and Sonia, always had a good stash of snacks and nibbles tucked away in a drawer. As soon as this damned kettle had finished boiling and he had made his tea, he would go and take a peek at what was left over from last week.

Bollocks, the bastard’s got nothing. Will sat down at his desk, feeling a little less cheery and positive than he had when he woke up. Never mind, just keep thinking positive thoughts, he told himself over and over, not wanting to fail on his first day at work since his life-changing moment on Saturday night. He’d like to think he could get through the first day without being miserable, if not the rest of the week. He was realistic enough to realise that he was unlikely never to feel low, or miserable, or even a little lonely for the rest of his life, but hopefully he would be able to feel that there was a purpose to getting up in the morning.

That was his plan, at least. Of course, it would be tricky to change his mood so suddenly, after two years of being a miserable bastard, but as he sat at his desk that Monday morning he felt that he was up to the challenge. As people started to arrive, they were greeted with an uncharacteristic ‘Good morning’ and a smile, and most responded with a ‘Morning’ and a confused expression.

Sonia arrived just before nine, looking flustered and flushed, as she often did on a Monday morning.

“Morning Will. God, what a journey. Bloody traffic, backed up all the way from the flyover to the car park. Twenty minutes it took me once I’d come off the flyover just to get to the roundabout.”

“Well, at least you’re here now,” he said with his perkiest voice. “And a very good morning to you. I trust you had a nice weekend?”

She looked at him with an expression that seemed to be a mixture of suspicion and bemusement. “OK. What’s made you so happy all of a sudden?”

“All of a sudden? I’ve been like this for half the weekend.”

“All right smart-arse, you know what I mean. The last time I saw you, you were your usual miserable self, one minor disagreement away from making the lead story on the Six O’clock News, and now you’re asking me if I had a nice weekend as though you actually mean it. I’ve known you for too long not to be a little suspicious.”

“True. What can I say? I’ve had an epiphany, I guess. No more Mr Grumpy Bastard, just Mr Glass Half Full from now on.”

“I’m not sure I like the idea of that, but we’ll discuss that bit later. What I really don’t understand is why? People don’t change for no reason.”

Will looked around to see who could hear them. There was no one within earshot, but he still lowered his voice to make sure he could only be heard by Sonia.

“I realised a few things Saturday night. Things that have been making me miserable. And I realised the only person that could do something about it is me. So I’m going to build my relationship with Sophie and Jack, try and be friends with Andy again, and be nice to Abi. It was the realisation that I am still in love with her that kicked it all off, really.”

“OK.” Sonia was clearly turning over what he had said. After a few seconds, she said, “Didn’t you know that you were still in love with Abi? Wasn’t that a little obvious?”

“Not to me, no. I seemed to spend my whole time hating her. Why, did you see it differently?”

“Yeah, a bit. You spent a lot of time slagging her off, but I always got the impression that you still had strong feelings for her.”

“I did.”

“Positive ones, I mean. Anyway, I’m not sure if I like the idea of a cheerful, happy Will, but let’s see how long it lasts, shall we?”

It was no more than he expected from Sonia. She was as bad as him when it came to optimism and a positive outlook.

“Well, if nothing else I’ve got a clean flat out of it. And the intention is to keep it that way.” He knew that was the easiest part of the whole plan, but he was still proud of what he’d done yesterday. The plan now was to do it every weekend.

That bit at least should be easy to keep up. Getting over Abi and finding a new girlfriend? That might take a little more effort.

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Chapter 1

Sunday Morning

 

Who knew a cup of tea could taste so good?

It wasn’t that it was a different brand, different milk, sugar instead of sweetener, or any other possible variation. It just tasted good.

Sundays were usually spent the same way as Saturdays – watching TV, smoking cigarettes and feeling lonely. This Sunday was going to be different. Except the smoking, of course. Will couldn’t change everything in one day, and he had a whole packet of Marlboro and a pouch of Golden Virginia to finish first. No point in wasting it.

This Sunday was going to be the first Sunday of the rest of his life.

As he carried his tea through to the living room, he considered this expression, and decided that whether good or bad, every day is the first of the rest of your life, and whoever first coined the phrase should be shot for stating the bleeding obvious.

But as he was in a positive mood this morning, he didn’t dwell on it for long.

Will stood at the window in his living room, looking down on the street below. Seven-thirty on a Sunday morning was a quiet time in this South London suburb, the only activity being the street-cleaner diligently filling his handcart with empty beer bottles and discarded kebab paper.

A cup of tea this good couldn’t be enjoyed properly without a cigarette, so he lit a Marlboro and opened a window to let the smoke out. Apart from the solitary street-cleaner and the occasional bus, Will’s only other form of entertainment was the crows and pigeons, who must have been very grateful for all the dropped kebab meat and shredded cabbage that littered the pavement every Sunday morning, and were getting their fill before this feast was picked up and sent on its way to a landfill site somewhere.

After two years of living with a cloud over his head, last night Will Frampton had had an epiphany. He had realised that the only person making him miserable was himself. He could no longer blame Abi, his estranged wife and the only woman he had ever loved, who had thrown him out of the family home three years previously. She’d warned him on several occasions to pay her more attention, interact with the children, and generally stop being a couch potato. He’d deserved to be kicked out, to be fair.

Neither could he blame his job or his employer. The fact that he had never put an ounce of effort into his work over the past thirty years was hardly the fault of the bank. He should just be grateful that they had kept him on for so long, even if he had been doing the same job for the past twenty years.

The only person other than himself who Will felt he could hold responsible, if only a little bit, was his former best friend Andy. They’d known each other since school, and had remained close up to the moment Will had told Andy that Abi had asked him to leave. Andy had been a little too keen to console Abi for Will’s liking, and he soon discovered why.

Anyway, things were going to be different from now on. Tomorrow, he would go to work with a positive attitude, and not be his usual miserable self. Sonia, his long term colleague, and only real friend, would probably ask him if he was on drugs, or make some such stupid remark, but she’d have to get used to his new, sunny attitude.

As would Abi and the children.

 

***

 

“Good Morning. How are you?” Will couldn’t quite believe how bright and breezy he sounded. He was a little worried about what Abi might think.

“I’m fine, thanks. You sound cheerful. What’s up?” Abi replied hesitantly. Well, he had expected her to be suspicious. Now he had to make sure she didn’t stop him from talking with the children.

“Nothing’s up. I’m just calling to speak with Jack and Sophie, if they’re around.”

“Why?”

“Can’t a father speak with his children when he wants to?”

“Yes, a father can. But when that father has not made much of an effort in the past, and certainly has never called at a quarter to nine on a Sunday morning, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for the mother of his children to wonder what the hell is up with him.”

She’d got him there. He didn’t call very often, and never this early in the morning. Sunday mornings were just the same as Saturday mornings, except instead of Saturday Kitchen, he had The Andrew Marr Show to sit and complain about. More paper reviews (not newspapers – this was Sunday, after all), celebrities plugging their latest endeavours, purely for their own benefit, and interviews with politicians that, regardless of which party they represented, must have attended the same training course as all the other politicians that appeared on the programme. The one where they teach you how to answer the question that you really wanted the interviewer to ask, rather than the one that they actually did. Some of them could really turn it into an art form.

Well, not this Sunday. He hadn’t sat down since he’d got out of bed around seven o’clock. The dishes had been washed, the shelves had been dusted and his body had been showered. His face had been shaved, his pile of dirty clothes had been gathered into a black bag, and his bed had been made. If only he’d had a working Hoover, he could have vacuumed.

All in all he was feeling very pleased with himself.

The butterflies in his stomach must have been feeling quite chipper as well, judging by the way they hadn’t stopped fluttering all morning. The cup of coffee and the badly rolled cigarette he’d smoked just before making the phone call had helped for a short while, but right now the butterflies seemed to be performing Red Arrows style aerial acrobatics.

“Actually, there was another reason for my call; Jack’s birthday. Would it be OK if I popped over with his present? It’d be great to see him.”

“Yeaahh, OK.” Her enthusiasm was underwhelming.

“Go on. I won’t stay long. I don’t want to cause any bad atmosphere. I just think it’d be nice for him to see his dad on his birthday.”

“I guess so. It just seems a bit odd, considering you’ve missed his last two birthdays. I don’t want you building his hopes up that his dad might get more involved, only for you to crush him. You’ve never been the most reliable of people.”

“Fair point. I can’t argue with you there. But I do want to try and see them both more. Don’t ask me what’s changed, just try and believe that something has.”

“Well, OK. If you promise to see them both more often. We’re going out for the day Saturday, so you’ll have to get here before 9. If not, you could come Sunday.”

“I’ll be there for 8.30. Thanks, Abi. I won’t let you down.”

“It’s a bit late for that, don’t you think?”

Yesterday he would have told her to go fuck herself. Today was different. Today he was a new man.

“Sorry. If I could turn the clock back.” He left a pause, waiting for her to respond.

After a few seconds too long, he broke the silence. “Anyway, are Jack or Sophie there?”

“Hold on, I’ll see if either of them is awake.”

Will knew Jack would be. He wasn’t so sure about Sophie. From what Abi had told him, she was slipping into teenage mode with great enthusiasm, and being awake before 10 o’clock on a Sunday was out of the question.

Maybe he should have considered that before he decided to phone so early. Not that it mattered, as he’d spoken with her the night before anyway. If Sophie hadn’t called him he wouldn’t have remembered it was Jack’s birthday next week. She’d also told him that Abi had booked a holiday to Orlando, and that Andy was going with them, which hadn’t gone down too well with him. So badly, in fact that he’d contemplated suicide, but as the only pills he’d had were herbal sleeping pills, paracetamol and his blood pressure medication, he’d decided he wasn’t really that well-equipped for such a task. He’d also felt bad that he’d ended their conversation abruptly, and he really wanted to speak with her again, but now was probably not the right time.

He’d chat with Jack and try Sophie later.

He could hear muffled voices.

“I don’t know, he just wants to talk to you. Can’t you just pause the game?”

“I suppose so.”

“Hi, Dad.” Jack sounded a little fed up.

“Hi, Jack. Sorry, did I interrupt your game?”

“No, it’s OK. I’ll go and get some breakfast in a minute anyway.”

“Good.” He really should have given some thought as to what he was going to say. He’d been so excited about trying to rebuild his relationship with his children, he hadn’t thought beyond the first ‘Hi’. One thing he didn’t want to bring up was the holiday. That could wait until Jack was ready to tell him, whenever that might be.

“So, how’s school?” It was lame, but the best he could come up with.

“Not bad.”

“Mum tells me you’re going out for your birthday next Saturday. Where’re you off to?”

Jack perked up at this. “Mum and Uncle Andy are taking me and Tom to Thorpe Park for the day,” he said, sounding very excited.

“Fantastic.” Bollocks. They’re taking him to Thorpe Park, and I can’t even afford to get him a present until the end of the week. Never mind. Keep cheerful. “Who’s Tom?”

“He’s my best friend. I’ve known him since I was five. Don’t you remember him?”

“Oh, that Tom,” Will lied, not having a clue who Jack was talking about. “Well that sounds like a great day. I’m going to try and get to you before you go next week, so I can give you your present and wish you a Happy Birthday.”

“OK.” There wasn’t an ounce of enthusiasm in Jack’s voice, but Will didn’t really expect anything else. “Anyway, Dad, I’m going to get some breakfast now. See you next week.”

Before Will could finish saying ‘Bye, Jack. Have a good week’ Abi was back on the phone. “No, he’s gone. You’ve got me again now.”

No, I haven’t. And you know what? That’s fine. I’ll get over it. I can move on, and leave you with Andy while I start to build a new life for myself. I really can.

“Oh, hi. I guess Sophie isn’t awake?”

“You guess right. At least another hour yet.”

“Never mind. Give her my love, and maybe I’ll see her next Saturday when I pop over.”

“Maybe. I doubt it, though. I can’t see her getting up early just to see her dad.” Will wasn’t sure if Abi had meant that comment to be hurtful, but if she did, she’d done a good job.

“No, I guess you’re right,” he said, trying to keep any hurt or disappointment out of his voice. “Well, have a lovely Sunday, and I’ll see you early next Saturday.”

“OK. Bye.” She hung up almost immediately.

Will had been pacing up and down the living room during the whole conversation, trying to settle the butterflies. He put the phone down on the coffee table, picked up his rolling tobacco and papers and went over to the window to roll a cigarette.

Well, that wasn’t too bad. He knew Jack would be happy for him to go over next week, even if he hadn’t sounded overly enthusiastic about it. That’s just the way children are, even ten year-olds.

There was only one thing that was playing on his mind, and made him realise how little interaction he had had with his children, even when he was living with them. He had no idea who Jack’s best friend was, even though Jack had known him for the last five years. Doubtless, he had met him at some stage, but Will had no recollection.

There again, it was two years since he had met any of Jack’s friends, and he couldn’t remember the names of any of them. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s been a long time.

Will wasn’t the greatest roller of cigarettes, and the rather lumpy specimen he put between his lips was up to his usual standard. He lit it, and then stood at the window, trying to return to his earlier positive state of mind.

It would be completely unrealistic to expect either Abi or Jack to have greeted him with anything other than suspicion or mild interest. Two years of misery and lack of contact couldn’t be overturned in one phone call. Why should he think he would know the names of any of Jack’s friends after all these years? He barely knew the names of his own colleagues, and would forget them within a month of them leaving.

He took a long drag, held his breath for a few seconds, then exhaled the smoke with a strong feeling of satisfaction.

He’d broken the ice. Now he just had to make sure he got to the house early enough next Saturday. It wouldn’t look good if he didn’t turn up in time.

The scene below was a little more lively than it had been earlier, but it was still rather quiet compared with a Saturday morning. A few cars were driving past, and the pavement had a few more people than just the street-cleaner, who by now had moved on, leaving behind him just what he should – a clean street.

The lack of kebab meat and raw cabbage, combined with the increase in traffic meant there were no more birds to keep Will entertained, but no matter. He spent his time productively, thinking about last night, his phone conversation, and how he was going to make sure that his life really did change for the better, and not just slip back into how it was this time yesterday. He really was fed up with being miserable the whole time, and his conversation with Jack had made him realise how little he knew about his own children. Who was Sophie’s best friend? Did she, or had she ever had a boyfriend? Were they both doing well at school? He spoke with them both occasionally, and saw them around Christmas and the other odd occasion in the year, but he didn’t really know them.

Will stared out of the window, not focusing on anything, feeling a little depressed. His earlier good mood had been pushed aside as he considered how much effort he was going to have to put in to rescue his relationship with his children. Effort was not something Will took to well, regardless of what it may bring. If he had put a little effort in over the years, he wouldn’t now be in a dead-end job in a bank, going through every day wondering what could have been if he had just not been so lazy.

But not this time. He looked away from the window, and surveyed his living room. A room that yesterday had surfaces that were thick with dust, and felt like a prison. Now it was clean and a lot less smelly than yesterday, and he felt proud of his achievement. It wasn’t much, but it was a start, and with a little effort he could keep it up for life.

If a little effort was all that was needed to keep his flat clean, then a little effort with his children might be enough. They were too old to be reliant on him anyway; all he and they wanted was a bit more interest from him in their lives. At least, he hoped they would want that, and that he hadn’t left it too late. Only time would tell.

He thought back to his conversation with Sophie the previous evening. She’d called him to remind him that Jack’s birthday was coming up. She had seemed to want to talk, and he had cut her off. God, how he wished he hadn’t, but there was nothing he could do to change that. He’d just have to try and speak with her again soon.

He felt his mood improving slowly. Positive mental attitude, Will. As he turned back to look out of the window, he saw a little way up the road a cyclist ride straight through a red light, and cause a car to break sharply. An event that yesterday would have made his blood boil, and start him off on a rant about what selfish bastards all cyclists are. Today, he managed to keep calm, and tell himself it wasn’t that important, especially as he had not been involved. Ignore it, Will. It’s nothing to do with you. The driver may be angry, but he probably isn’t on blood pressure medication. Maybe next time the cyclist will be knocked off and killed, so we’ll all be better off. He couldn’t resist a little dig. He wasn’t going to change that quickly.

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A Time for Change

Two major things happened to me this week.

The first thing was that I published my second book, ‘You Lose Some You Win One’, the sequel to ‘Have a Nice Weekend’. Three years after the first one was published, so not exactly quick, but still, I’ve done it.

Now I just need to get the third (and probably final) book in the series written. And finish the other three that I have started but not finished. Not to mention the short stories that are also half-written.

But I might not have seen the results of this achievement if the chest pains I had yesterday had resulted in the heart attack that I was probably overdue to have. Luckily, they were just pains, and after some tests and a few sprays of something under my tongue, I was sent home having been told that I hadn’t had a heart attack. I’m seeing my GP later. Maybe he’ll be able to say what actually happened.

Anyway, I am not telling you this for any sympathy, nor am I seeking attention. The point of this blog is to say I will be changing my diet, and as I discover or invent healthy versions of some of my favourite dishes, I will put the recipes up here. I am at least two stone (28 lbs) overweight. With a wife and daughter who are virtually vegans (they will eat eggs, but no dairy), moving to a low fat diet shouldn’t be hard, but I will still want some of my favourite foods, in a healthy form, otherwise I am likely to fall off the wagon and go back to my bad old ways.

So, for anyone who is interested, look out for some new recipes. 

But before that, I will be posting excerpts from the new book as well. I say excerpts, more likely whole chapters.

If you would like to buy it, on the other hand, the Amazon links are as follows:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/You-Lose-Some-Win-One-ebook/dp/B00KGHSYUU/ref=la_B005QZPGXK_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400758835&sr=1-2 

http://www.amazon.com/You-Lose-Some-Win-One-ebook/dp/B00KGHSYUU/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_d_1 

 

 

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You Lose Some You Win One

You Lose Some You Win One

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May 18, 2014 · 9:48 pm