Yep, I’ve started my Nano project. It’s going well. Very well. Probably rubbish but a story is taking shape and I’m having fun with some old favourite characters as well as some new ones.
I asked if people wanted me to post extracts. Some did, some didn’t. Those who didn’t were wary of the whole story being revealed too soon. I appreciate that advice.
This is the outline, an early blurb if you like, of the story. Rather than give away the plot I thought maybe I’d introduce some characters and maybe the odd standalone scene. Here are a couple.
First is the opening; it is June 1981, and we re-meet Harry and one of the secretaries at the firm he works for.
“Mr Spittle. Please concentrate.” Jean Sampson is seriously ancient and intimidating in a cardigan and pearl necklace sort of way. She is my principal’s secretary and has made my life miserable since I arrived at Clifford Risley & Co eighteen months ago.
My name is Harry Spittle and I’m what’s called an articled clerk. It’s a form of slavery that trainee solicitors are put through before they emerge as fully qualified practitioners. You serve two years hard labour at a level of pay that encourages a diet of pot noodle and bread crusts.
Why a lawyer? No good reason beyond the fact that the one I met a few years ago, Mr Lewis, seemed happy and sleekly well-fed. That and the fact no one in my family thought I could do it. Well no one other than my Great Aunt Edna – Nanty to one and all – who encouraged me to have a go. She died last year after a short illness.
“Now,” Jean has sat on her chair and crossed her legs to create a base for her notebook. She has soft, spongy ankles in contrast to everything else which is sparse and hard. “Sir Penshaw.”
Later we meet the receptionist, an ally of Harry and a woman who, we will find, has surprising depths.
How do I know all this? Gloria, the receptionist and my one ally here. Gloria is a wonder. Physically she’s the sort of woman who frightens the pants off me. She just fills my vision with some part always catching my eye, be it a bit of boob, a sliver of thigh or a fluff of hair. I try ever so hard not to stare but she’s always there. Also she seems to know what I’m thinking well before I do and so answers my unspoken questions before I’ve realised I want to ask them.
She flatters the senior partner, Philip Risely and has him fluttering to her desk with silly questions all the time and is thus protected from the tyranny to which Edith, Mr Risely’s redoubtable secretary, subjects anyone who sees fit to approach his room. As might be expected Jean and Edith loathe each other in a brittle, genteel way. Everyone says Mr Risely is a genius which I find hard to believe, unless genius is something you lose if you don’t practice at it. He appears to know no law and have few people skills.
I did wonder out loud to Gloria how come he became a partner and had his name added to the firm’s. Her reply? ‘If Ronald Reagan can be President of the US it doesn’t take much imagination for Philip Risely to become senior partner here.’
I’m clearing my desk in anticipation of Sir Penshaw’s arrival when the phone rings. Gloria knows not to put through calls when Jean is taking dictation.
‘Hiya, lover boy. You’re popular. A Mr Garfield Dobbs [Harry’s friend Dobbin from the last book] of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation called asking for a minute of your valuable and someone who sounded like he was whispering or had a bad cold or something said he was calling round and needed some urgent advice.” She pauses. “Didn’t leave a name though he called you the Remarkable Harold so I suppose he’s also a friend.”
“Did Gary leave a number?”
“He did. Is he that scrummy hunk you share a flat with?”
Gary and I bumped into Gloria and four of her friends in a pub near the Oval about six months ago. I did wonder if she lived locally but she said she was just visiting.
“That’s him. He was off for an interview. Sounds like he got the job.”
“Well, sugar, if you have a drink to celebrate let me know. I might be able to give him a little ‘congratulations’ of my own.” And there’s the other reason I find her overwhelming. She is always hinting at sex, or at least it seems that way to me. After the cupboard incident and while Penny [Harry’s girlfriend] wasn’t talking to me [this relates to an incident involving Natalie, another old character], I was a bit low. Gloria spotted it immediately and took me out on a complete bender. We ended up in my bedroom where she made it quite clear sex was not on the agenda but then she let me fondle her boobs. At least I think she did but when I woke she wasn’t there and there was no sign of her. When I asked Gary if he’d seen her he looked at me like I was barking and said I’d come home on my own and gone straight to bed. Gloria never spoke about it and now, vivid though the images are, I’m wondering if I didn’t just dream it. It was a lovely dream.
If you enjoy these, et me know and I’ll keep posting. If you want a more educated read by a true craftsperson, try Charli’s posts here. Or some non Nano, by another talented practitioner, try Anne’s here.