The Secret Diary Of A First Time F.O.F.; part sixteen

This is entirely fiction. Completely. Utterly. Except for any true bits

August 17th: 08.12am. Am informed while buttering toast that the wedding countdown has begun and ‘we now have to focus on the fine details’.

08.13am: Attempt sage expression while trying to avoid eye contact. Fail as am forced to consider First Of Her Name is having a coronary, if the noises emanating from beneath the table are anything to go by.

8.27am: am making similar noises to those emitted by First Of Her Name. We are exercising as apparently we need to ‘get in shape’.

8.28am: am horrified when shown exactly what ‘my shape’ is to become. Protest that my stomach is visible proof that there are still opportunities available to the shrewd investor that will grow whatever the market conditions viz a couple of swift pints and a ‘sharpener’ before dinner every night ensures I continue to represent, graphically, the benefits of globalisation.

8.29am: am mortified when First Of Her Name says the only thing about me that represents any connection with globalisation is how after said pints I look like I’ve swallowed a planet.

9.14am: First Of Her Name announces we have become members of a gymnasium and we will need to undertake an assessment at lunchtime.

12.42pm: am introduced to Gervais who appears to be devoid of various standard body parts, viz a neck and the ability for his arms to touch his sides. He is wearing a stretchy top with the words ‘Fit Me’ emblazoned on the front. Wonder if this is a description or a direction.

12.45pm: Gervais queries my attempt to guess at the appropriate dress code viz a pair of fawn slacks and a cricket pullover. My loafers are also ‘non-standard’.

12.46pm: Gervais points to a whippet thin woman who must be in training to play a novelty hamster in some upcoming interpretation of the Nutcracker as she is practicing running in a wheel. She is wearing ‘lycra’ which I need to acquire. This is far too much of a reminder of the Spanx farrago and have to be revived. Come to with Gervais about to give me mouth to mouth. Faint again.

12.53pm: Gervais decides I might be best trying a bicycle. This machine has an encouragingly familiar structure and am happily pedalling when Gervais informs me we will be undertaking a HIIT programme. Assure him, as a pacifist, I will be doing nothing of the kind. Gervais explains the meaning of this confusing acronym. ‘Shall we give it a try?’

13.04pm: peer at a sea of faces from horizontal position on floor, including Gervais and First Of Her Name. Assume I am about to be berated for my failure to master the HIIT concept when hear First Of Her Name say, ‘I asked you to get him ready for our daughter’s wedding not accelerate her inheritance.’

13.09pm: sitting with First Of Her Name in trendy wine bar sipping a rather good white Rioja. Admit to being pleasantly surprised at this turn up. First Of Her Name states we will not be going back to ‘those charlatans’. Make suitably mollifying comment about their lack of obvious Health & Safety considerations for the novice user such as us, only to be corrected brusquely ‘they said they didn’t have enough time to tone me up’.

13.10pm: make fatal mistake of levity (note to self: always think twice before attempting to lighten First Of Her Name’s mood). A light-hearted reference to ‘bingo wings’ and the fact no one will notice on the day is rebuffed with ‘My outfit is sleeveless’. Offer to seconds of the anaesthetic by the glass which is also rebuffed.

13.27pm: Comeuppance is delivered unusually swiftly. We have joined a running club that caters for all ages and all levels which is based at said wine bar. ‘This will be much more effective.’

13.28pm: am left wondering in what way the running club might be more effective: preparing me for my role in the upcoming nuptials or for my early demise. Judge that the jury to be still out by the time of the wedding.

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Competition Is Its Own Life Blood

Lentilah Blossom stood at her door and checked her watch. One minute past the hour.

Where was the old bat? Just winding me up, she thought. She’s the one who’s moaning if I’m even a fraction late. Well, just you wait, Granny Windbag, I am going to give you what-for. Not that it’ll be your fault. Oh no, heaven forfend. It’ll be the landlord, or that pompous oaf of a son or some such.

Like last week, when his lord and master comes a knocking while I’m frustigating my giblets. Can I lend him some milk because Granny Windbag hasn’t got any in? What’s he think, I’m her shopper? He’s her spawn; he can go buy some. And she knows Thursdays is giblets day. Send him over, just to try and upset my jelloids. Ha! She’ll not catch me out. I’m wise to her trickery. She even sent himself to tell me not to work in the garden, to give it a rest. What did he say? ‘It’ll be nice to have a break.’

Of course that’s her witchcraft. She knows this is exactly the time of year when I have to be out there, working my herbaceous border if I’m going to get my show. Her and them herbs, they need a barber not a proper horticulturist. Give ‘em a short back and sides and they’re good for her potions and poisons. And she’s not getting away with letting the lawn grow again. Oh no, catch me out once and I nearly had the bloody grass everywhere.

The old lady checked her watch again. Seven minutes past.

Oh come on Mithras, you silly old sod. Let’s get the garden done and then we can go to Bingo. It’s a lovely day and it’s your turn to get the jaffas. That’ll be it, though. Spent yer pension on gin, haven’t you? Haven’t the entrance for the Bingo and too proud to ask for a lend, eh? Oh no, you couldn’t be beholden, could you? Stuck up strumpet. All those airs and graces. Don’t think I didn’t see you lazing about while that boy of yours does all yer errands. He has a family, himself. Not that you could ever let him go, could you? Nag nag. Poor little bugger. Is it any surprise he’s so anal? You on one side and that brassy tart on the other. Couldn’t even bother to lift yer cup, could you? Got him to hold it up. Talk about lazy.

She rubbed the glass on her watch and peered at the dial. Quarter past.

That’s it. 9am every Tuesday, rain or shine, we garden. That’s the rules. She does her bit and I do mine and that way she doesn’t sneak off with my blooms and I don’t get accused of nabbing her sage. Mind you, he didn’t know that, did he? She’d not told him and I’ll give her that much, she knows how to grow her herbs. Mind you the amount of compost she’s put in that bed, she’d be hard pressed to kill anything. No, stuff her. I’m going to do my border and she can whinge about rules all she likes. She’s not here, she forfeits her rights.

Lentilah Blossom checked her basket; her tools were all in place. Straightening her shoulders she stepped outside and carefully closed the door behind her, checking it was on the latch. She hesitated briefly before walking across the grass to her bed, all the time watching the front door of her neighbour of fifty-one years, Mithras Cotton for signs of life.

A movement in the window caught her attention. A face she didn’t recognise. She stopped, frowning. Could it be her neighbour was being burgled? Before she could decide whether to call the police or stand and gloat the front door opened and Mithras’ son stepped out. He looked pale and hesitated before he walked across to the bent old lady.

‘Hello Mrs. Blossom. I’m sorry.’

Lentilah looked confused.

Well, it couldn’t be her sending him to apologise for being tardy. She’d never admit she was wrong. Not ever.

‘It’s mum.’

‘What about her?’

‘I’m afraid she died last night. She’s been poorly. I expect you noticed. It was sudden but very peaceful.’

‘Dead?’ No, thought Lentilah, that couldn’t be right. She couldn’t just go and die like that, without notice. She wouldn’t. She had her faults – God preserve me the woman was all faults – but she wouldn’t do that, not without saying something. ‘What about her garden?’

Her son looked confused.

‘I imagine someone else will take it over now.’ He smiled, a tired washed out smile. ‘Maybe they’ll grow flowers too. Like you?’

Lentilah’s eyes widened in horror as the reality hit her like a train. His face started to wobble and his voice became faint as the noise like a fast approaching train filled her ears. She was vaguely aware of the surprise on his face before she slipped to the still damp grass. Lentilah Blossom might not have been the most self-aware person on the planet, but she knew her life was ebbing rapidly. As consciousness began to give way to oblivion she had one last coherent thought.

‘Bloody woman always had to be first at everything.’

This was written in response to the latest #writephoto prompt

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It shouldn’t happen to a Lawyer: The Desert Wine Debate

Last March I went skiing with some friends. A debate began around dessert wine. Since I’m a teetotaller these days, I rather left them to it. As the Sauternes flowed and the discussion became more colourful than coherent I was taken back to summer 1982 and my first encounter with sweet white wine served with dessert.

I joined my law firm the previous June, just before Charlie and Di spliced the knot in St Paul’s. I was pretty green and definitely unused to how the City of London functioned. My dad tried to give me pointers but since his last experiences had been at a time when you still wore a bowler hat and could be ostracised from polite company for failing to furl your umbrella in the approved clockwise manner he was about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

As I always did, in those far off days of social ignorance (to be accurate I can still be socially ignorant; it’s just that, these days, I don’t give a rodent’s gonads) I watched and tried to learn from the behaviour of others. Possibly that’s why they call the world of finance a zoo, so many people are watching, fascinated by these hard-wired and apparently arcane rituals performed by mammals who should really have evolved a little more before being given money.

I was hired, not so much for my skill-set – there was a fair degree of guess work at the interview – but because I seemed super keen in a Mary Poppins ‘spit-spot’ kind of way and they hoped I would make up for what I lacked in knowledge and legal expertise with an abundance of effort.

One of the early deals I worked on involved the leasing of a brand new building in Poole for an American credit card company. It was to house their computer facility and was enormous; these days you’d probably need a phone box to house the same computing capacity. The deal was what is, in retrospect called ‘a good learning experience’ but which at the time was more like a laxative. Eventually, through a mix of subterfuge, chutzpah and fibbing the client got the desired result and everyone, who until five minutes before would happily have given several body parts and as yet unsired offspring never to have seen the others again, professed themselves content. Backs were cordially slapped, undying respect for their opponents’ skilful negotiations assured, and said deal was confirmed as ‘fair and fine’ even if earlier it sounded as if the self same terms were the equivalent of being given a hedgehog enema.

I stood to one side, marvelling at this new skill – hypocrisy – I realised I would have to develop alongside two others I had identified during the course of these negotiations, namely an ability to function without sleep and bullshitting.

‘We must celebrate. Lunch.’ The senior lawyer in the room, a man with weasel in his DNA opined.

‘Of course,’ said another, a banker. ‘A good one.’

A silence ensued, bringing a gravity to this otherwise euphoric moment. Eyes turned to the clients. Mine, working for an American business was stared at especially beadily. He sighed. ‘Yes, I’ll pay.’

Grace and decorum restored, we departed for our respective offices. I rather assumed this last exchange was just another example of unfulfilled promises which I had already begun to recognise as part of the fabric of City life but no, within days a call came through from said aged lawyer’s Secretary inquiring of the client’s availability. ‘Oh,’ she added, ‘Mr So ‘n So wants to know if Mr Wotsit will be attending. Can you ask him?’

Mr Wotist was my boss on this job, the partner in charge but before you form an impression of some sage eminence who gave me helpful guidance and the benefit of years of accumulated wisdom let me disabuse that notion: delegation had a precise meaning back then – the delegator told the delegatee what the job entailed and the next contact expected of both of us would be either to report (1) the job had cratered (2) the job had closed; or (3) I had managed to cock things up so spectacularly that a swift note to the professional indemnity insurers might prove prudent.

At the time, I shared a room with a wise senior lawyer who was eventually to move to other firm having been rejected for a partnership. He overheard half that conversation and stopped me as I rose to go and check the Wotsit diary. ‘What are you doing?’

I explained.

‘Don’t be a total plonker.’

There was one grand thing about Rupert. He never spoke in code, an unusual trait in a lawyer. He continued, ‘If Wotsit is free he will be the guest and you won’t go. He will justify it on the grounds of ensuring the client receives the satisfaction of knowing that the partner is fully aware of and interested in his business. A lunch is, you will be told, the perfect opportunity for such relaxed schmoozing.’

I nodded but I was too young. I went and asked. ‘… it will be the perfect opportunity to assure the client that we are fully aware of and interested in…’

Another important lesson: have a radar for cynicism.

As it turned out the client didn’t want ‘a mystery guest, so tell him if he goes to the lunch and not you, the next job goes to (insert name of rival)’

I didn’t but he did and, hurrah huzzah! Wotsit was already engaged that lunchtime. I was deemed an adequate substitute.

My roommate told me to enjoy myself. As I grabbed my jacket he ended with, ‘See you tomorrow.’

I nodded. He must have a meeting out of the office later that afternoon.

I shared the lift with the Head of Department. ‘Have a good time and see you tomorrow.’

Was everyone out at meetings?

Bill, on reception gave me a wink. ‘Don’t eat too much. Save some space for the wine.’

I grinned. I’d probably have a beer (back then I did partake).

‘See you tomorrow.’

Now this did confuse me. Bill’s shift ended an hour after the official office closing time. I would definitely see him again. Before I could inquire about possible doctor’s appointments the client appeared and we left for the restaurant.

The senior lawyer had booked a private room in a seriously posh French restaurant on the south side of Covent Garden. A glass of fizz awaited us. I’d only drunk fizz at weddings and this seemed a mite indulgent but the client was happy – his expenses were paying – so I necked that.

After that, there was white with the starters and red with the main and more red. It was a sunny day and despite it being daylight my eyes wanted to close. The skin on my cheeks had begun to shrink and tighten and thoughts seemed to end before they should.

Don’t get me wrong: I played a lot of rugby. I knew what getting drunk felt like. It was just that (a) drunk usually equated with a night time activity and (b) it had never involved a civilised, no doubt vastly expensive lunch.

But the good side to drunk is it is a fairy egalitarian affliction and everyone in that room had contracted a dose of a kind. For my part though I wasn’t so far gone that I had lost complete track. A glance at my watch told me it was already gone three and I really ought to be back at my desk. If I’d been questioned in advance I’d have said I expected everyone to need to get back too.

The conversation seemed to be centring on whose club we should go on to after finishing the meal. Everyone, me apart, joined in. I didn’t know what to do.

It was then that desserts were ordered. This place, it turned out, was famous for its stunning creme brûlée. The host announced we would be having ‘a rather splendid little number’ to accompany the puds. By this time I think everyone knew how naive I was at this sort of thing.

‘Well Geoffrey, have you tried dessert wines?’

I didn’t know that there was such a thing so I shook my head.

‘This will blow your mind.’ A fair few nods and smiles accompanied this statement.

The wine was poured with all due deference. It glowed in the low light a sort of amber meets ice effect. Under several watchful gazes I sipped. I took a mouthful of creamy niceness and sipped again. My taste buds had gone to Nirvana and been bathed in the finest milk. My brain however had been turned inside out and gone in search of my sanity which had decided to have a couple of hours kip. To say I was almost instantly befuddled would be an exaggeration. It took minutes.

I have found, when drunk, I become razor sharp. I focus on one thought to the exclusion of all else. In this case the need to get back to the office to sign my post.

‘Noooo!’ The assembled multitude cried.

Somewhere, deep buried my sanity looked up briefly from its slumbers and nodded its agreement. I pulled the duvet over its head and wished it shut the eff up.

Somehow I managed to return to the office. I have a vague recollection of Bill’s surprise and then increasing horror. At the time I expect I attributed that to my tardy return from my prandial repast. I hurried to the lift, ignoring his blandishments to ‘hang on a mo’.

In my office my post sat on my blotter. A note on the top from my secretary said, I think, ‘I’ve dated them tomorrow.’

It was quite difficult to read, I realised. Maybe a quick few moments of shut eye. I rested my head on the note and….

‘Come on, old fella, home time.’

My roomy, back early from his meeting I suppose. I may have tried to speak. Neither of us found the sounds at all helpful.

Mr Wotsit appeared in the doorway. Some part of me felt it likely that what I was doing as not a good thing but he smiled and said, ‘well done.’

I imagine I was surprised but then, indeed getting myself back to the office was an achievement.

Later, maybe a minute or two, maybe a few eons, I was in a taxi looking at the river as we crossed it heading south towards my flat. Later still I was hopping around my bedroom trying to get out of my trousers.

The next day was grim. The hangover felt like Krakatoa was reprising its greatest eruptions through a Led Zeppelin speaker stack that someone had grafted onto my head. I made it into the office even though my ability to see was fundamentally impaired.

Several people looked, nudged and looked away, as people do when someone is bereaved and they don’t know what to say. My bereavement would come in the shape of the death of my job.

‘Mr Wotsit wants a word. In the senior partner’s room.’

Oh goodness. I was to be defenestrated by the Archangel.

Mr Wotsit and the SP. sat me down, offered me coffee. No beating about the bush. ‘The client is delighted. He thinks you are an excellent lawyer and a fine young man…’

There were so many buts hanging in the air it was like I’d stumbled onto an arse drying contest.

‘But… if you expect to get on in the City, there is one rule you need to learn now. After a client lunch like that you do not, under any circumstances, return to the office. Understood?’

Such a different world that was. In five years no one drank spirits at lunch any more and by 1990 port was on the wane. By the time Tone Blair toothed his way into number Ten wine at lunch was fading to memory like the telex machine and honest banking. By the turn of the Millennium, there were still client lunches and they could be boozy but more often than not they weren’t. And I knew what dessert wine could do to me.

I looked at my fellow skiers. They didn’t care. They weren’t going back to any office either.

Posted in humour, law, memories, miscellany | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

Remaining sanguine #isms #shortfiction

You know what’s the worst thing about being a black vampire? People laugh at you when you say you can’t stand the sun. They think you’re a wuss. Drives me nuts and it’s meant I’ve gone undercover, spending my days in a doorway, hoodie up, head down. I’m just another vagrant, invisible. I told my cousin Leroy in Milwaukee that it made my blood boil and he just laughed. ‘You don’t have enough to boil’.

Truth is, being homeless worked for a time. Then that bloody dog appeared. You know it, don’t you? A solo panhandler is ignored but give him a pet, and they’re all over him, cooing and giving him bits of burger. Humiliating for a Count of Transylvania; mother would spin in her grave if she hadn’t been skewered by a length of 2 by 4.

I tell him to bugger off or he’ll get it in the neck. I felt stupid as soon as the words came out and blow me if he didn’t laugh. I should have smelt a rat then, a dog laughing.

So the sun sinks, and I’m testing my teeth to make sure they’re sharp when he starts this twisting and roaring thing. It’s dead impressive. Turns out he’s a werewolf. Did you know being infected as a werewolf could cross the species barrier? Me neither. I thought it was a wolf/human thing.

It’s dark, the moon’s out and he’s drooling at me and I’m lusting at him. We go at like two world’s colliding, fur and hair, blood and guts everywhere. Two hours, we’re in bits. Any likely punters are long gone. It’s been the same all this week.

The paper says it’s a half moon tonight; hope so cos I’m gasping for a pint.

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The Secret Diary Of A First Time FOF; part fifteen

This is entirely fiction. Completely. Utterly. Except for any true bits

August 6th: 06.21am. Wake up in spare bed, having realised two things overnight, viz (1) we need a new spare bed and (2) I will never again be able to straighten my spine.

07.40am. Encounter neighbour while out walking Spiro Agnew in the hope that early exercise will free up my spasming muscles. When Ronald sees me, he queries if I have ‘succumbed to all that yoga nonsense’. When I assure him I have not he wonders why I look ‘like a human pretzel’. While we are talking Spiro Agnew evacuates his bowels next to Rodney’s slippers. Decide it prudent to withdraw swiftly as Rodney is waging a war on the dog owner who’s mutt has been defecating outside his house for months and I am without appropriate faecal capture paraphernalia viz a doggie bag.

08.32am. First Of Her Name is prepared to forgot any faux pas from yesterday and offers me the chance of redemption. Indeed, she has developed an understanding and charitable streak as she tells me I need ‘to go to the pub’.

10.41am. In pub. First Of her Name does not have an understanding and charitable streak. I am charged with securing ‘their finest accommodation’ for certain guests viz her sister. While if questioned, First Of her Name will describe her relationship with her sister as ‘close’ this does not include physical proximity. Consequently they will need to be housed nearby but with at least two courses of bricks between each sibling. Hence the suggestion of the pub.

11.23am. Am pleading with Barry, the publican to let me have all seven of their rooms, even though they are already booked. First Of Her Name has made it clear that, if I fail in my appointed task ‘given that you have sent enough money there to have shares in the place’ I will need to consider alternative methods of urinating.

11.41am. Barry admits the rooms have been booked by Rodney who will be hosting a war-gaming extravaganza in his garage that weekend.

2.12pm. Having waited by the gate, pretending to degrease my wisteria, apprehend Rodney on his way to the off licence. Confide to him that I spotted Barry’s Rottweiler-Cerberus cross, Bruiser, depositing the latest turdiferous instalment on the pavement. Agree that Barry is a swine and certainly not a gentleman. Suggest we should boycott the pub in protest.

3.41pm. Deliver the news to Barry that Rodney has decided to cancel booking. Agree with assessment of Rodney’s untrustworthiness viz he is a mite too fickle (or in Barry’s vernacular ‘slippery little shite’). Confirm we are happy to fill Barry’s now empty order book.

4.17pm. Am confronted by apoplectic First Of Her Name. Once mouth frothing and teeth gnashing subsides to allow for coherent explanation, find that First Of Her Name has discovered Spiro Agnew’s morning offering as she returned from a trip to the bridal wear boutique by the simple expedient of stepping into same.  Have begun to sympathise when she interrupts. ‘I told Rodney it wasn’t good enough’. Further probing reveals that First Of Her Name suggested that, since the offending evacuation was on the pavement outside Rodney’s house, it was his responsibility to clean it up.

4.18pm. I gently suggest that First Of Her Name is being a touch harsh as he does not have own a dog. That appears to have been Rodney’s take. First Of Her Name then surprises me ‘But Rodney and I, we’re good.’ I want to ask how that can be so, but somehow know this will not generate a desirable answer.

7.10pm. At pub. Rodney revealed Barry’s pooch as the crapulous culprit to First Of Her Name. I am dispatched to cancel the booking. When I arrive, Rodney is in a full and frank discussion over the general decline in civic pride with Barry viz, why he doesn’t clean up after his sodding dog. Barry expresses a degree of surprise at his suggestion viz: ‘wtf are you saying?’ at which point Rodney points to me as the purveyor of eye-witness evidence.

7.27pm. Outside pub with the following having been resolved: (1) we will not be using the pub to house family members; (2) Rodney has restored his previously cancelled booking; and (3) I am discouraged from frequenting the pub for the foreseeable if I want to be able to urinate standing up; wonder if Barry and First Or Her Name attend same book group.

8.34pm. First Of Her Name pleased that booking has been cancelled so easily and delighted when I confide I have decided to cut down on trips to the pub ‘to save money’. Bed privileges are restored.

11.01pm. Wait outside Rodney’s for one hour seventeen minutes until, finally Spiro Agnew delivers. Think, perhaps that is enough of a protest for tonight.

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Forming A Disorderly Kew #Kewgardens #Dalechihuly

I’ve always enjoyed sculptures that seek to compliment their habitat. Sort of releasing the artist’s imagination into the wild, as it were. It takes a certain chutzpah to do this as well. Nature, after all, creates both the best canvases and the best vistas.

And it is even more of a challenge to accomplish something that takes the breath away as well as evoking a sort of longing: to see more; to be capable of doing it myself; to have the necessary financial resources to own an example.

I was contemplating this last thought during a visit at the weekend to Kew Gardens. For any readers who have not heard about Kew Gardens it would be on my ‘must visit’ list for any visitor. These are botanic gardens to die for. Not necessarily for the indigenous plants but for their extraordinary collection of trees and their Victorian glasshouses that are home to a world collection of plants.

These days you’d not be allowed to create Kew. Sure you could build the glasshouses but populating them with so many species from around the world and then planting 240 hectares with a biodiversity of trees in these days of invasive species worries and the corruption of the unbuilt environment, nope not a prayer.

The Victorians? Hell no. Maybe there have been disasters as a result of something brought back for Kew. If so they don’t publicise it – though there was a sign talking of over 6000 invasive foreign species being introduced (I assume into the UK).

Instead of worrying about the pollution caused by globalisation, I enjoyed the trees Goodness they are extraordinary.

But what really go my pulse racing was the exhibiting of Dale Chihuly glass sculptures across the gardens and in the art centre. The Textiliste could barely contain her excitement. Part of her textile degree was to study Chihuly influences in her weaving, but her reference points were some examples at the Victoria & Albert museum and what you can glean from books and on line. To be there, enjoying their form and content in the flesh (or at least in the glass) was special.

She it was who posed the question. ‘Would you like to own a piece?’

I wanted to say yes, it would be fabulous. The way the gradations of light as the sun slips into cloud and the sky darkens changes each sculpture is extraordinary, as if the piece is lit from within and without, as if it was a living sculpture, more performance art that static glass.

But – and here’s the thing – imagining any piece chez Le Pard leads inexorably to a second image. That of a Munch like scream face as it dawns on my lovely wife that I have shattered not just her dreams but his sculpture in one supremely stupid act of numbskulledness. Not only could I not live with myself, she would not allow me to live. Period.

No, this was a joy to be observed from a respectful distance. If Parliament has a gap between the benches that is two swords’ lengths apart, then I counted the space between me and each Chihuly in rucksack parabolas.

I’m pleased to report my marriage is currently on-going and not currently up for review…

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Love In A Hot Kitchen #writephoto

The members of Pollop on the Nadge’s Woman’s Institute would have come up with the following adjectives to describe themselves, if prompted with either: discrete flattery; or the opportunity to view the lightly oiled pectoral muscles of Jem Hayrick, the local arable farmer and part time life model: industrious; considerate; modest.

In the eyes of the neighbouring WI in Dollop on the Nadge, you might easily add: competitive and ruthless.

For if ever there was the opportunity to indulge a little light oneupmanship, by common consent the stalwart members of that august institution would take it.

This particular trait became especially apparent during the annual culinary extravaganza that was the South Hampshire food festival. Notionally everyone was supportive of all the contributors efforts but dig a little below the surface and the sugary sweet aroma of freshly baked schadenfreude filled the air. Women, who were normally the epitome of the polite and the soul of propriety would cackle at a soggy bottom, snigger at a failed fancy, and guffaw at an underdone sponge. And had that been the only response, Pollop WI would have been ostracised long since.

Millicent Tripplenibbles was not one of those women. She rose above such petty behaviour and let her self evident skills do the talking. Indeed so eloquent was her gracious if slightly smug acceptance of all plaudits it was often said that it was Millicent who put the pie into piety.

The result was that, because of her efforts at the stove Pollop WI always ended the day with the top prize, the President’s Whisk Challenge Trophy.

That was until Oleander Forkgibblet joined Dollop’s cowed team. Oleander had spent most of her life pursuing a peripatetic existence seeking both unique recipes and a perfect life partner. Having spent futile years hotdogging in Frisco, jerking chickens in Jamaica, revealing her wonton side in Shanghai and currying favours in Kolkata she returned to Dollop unwilling to bend the knee to anyone in all things culinary and hoping that that the elusive sharer of bodily warmth would make him or herself (Oleander was the epitome of modern) apparent.

Word spread of this new practitioner and both sides looked forward to big day. While Millicent remained faithful to tradition, Oleander brought forth gasps of surprise with her wristy techniques and unique ingredients.

The temperatures rose and the heat of competition began to force the spectators to retreat. Eventually only the two chefs and the lone judge remained. And in that febrile furnace the initial curiosity towards the other opponent began to melt, combining with a deepening mutual regard and coalescing, as the resultant ingredients intertwined, finally infusing into love.

There was that moment when everything else disappeared and each woman only had eyes for the other. The baying crowd, the anxious judge, even the hubbub from the cooking all faded from the consciousness of Millicent and Oleander. They knew how much better they would be, baked together, how nothing could stop them becoming the greatest ever.

That insight lasted until the ovens and stoves, left unattended for too long, exploded. The two lovers and the judge were seared into a pose, flambéed together in a cautionary tale that spoke of desire, hubris and the importance of remembering to check that you’ve turned off the gas.

This was written in response to the latest #writephoto prompt

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, miscellany | Tagged , | 24 Comments