The Labours Of Harry #books #cover

My first ever published book turned out to be the first in a series following the life and loves of Harold Spittle. We began in 1976 with Harry 19 and home for the holidays and have now reached 1997 with Harry a partner in a prestigious law firm. This instalment – The Labours Of Harry – is entering the final editing phase and I have a cover to show you and the blurb.

It’s April 1997 and Harry Spittle has it all: beautiful wife, three healthy and engaging children, a dream home and a partnership in a prestigious law firm. With his elevation to management a foregone conclusion and excitement of  the election looming, where his father is attempting to win a seat for the Tories, he should be at his peak. So why is he feeling flat?  When old friend and ex, Natalie comes to stay with two boys she’s adopted, having lost her partner Chuck in mysterious circumstances, he knows he should be focused on helping her cope, rather than fantasising about their past. He knows he needs to stay focused, but any hopes are dashed when he finds himself embroiled in what appears to be the kidnapping of a member of staff involving the IRA and the firm’s managing partner. On top of this, Harry’s equilibrium is further disturbed by the release from prison of a psychotic fixer for Robin Andersen, whose criminal empire Harry helped unwind fifteen years before and who may expect Harry to pay him his dues. Is Harry imagining things or is his life really out of control? And if it is, who will help him stop spinning?

And the first part of the opening chapter

“Mr Spittle? Harold Spittle?”

I know my face is twisting into a grimace, like I’ve swallowed a wasp, only not quite quickly enough. It is hardwired. Calling me ‘Harold’ is reserved for my primary head teacher and my parents and it brings out my subservient gene. Despite years of fighting this urge to bow to the authority of someone using my full name, I still find myself standing quickly and heading after the woman who’s called me.

The doctor’s surgery is housed in two terraced buildings set in a parade of rather down at heel shops. On one side is a pharmacy; on the other a betting shop, whose tannoyed announcement of the riders for the 11 o’clock at Cheltenham seeps through the thin partition walls and confuses some of the elderly patients, who look up as if it is their turn at the jumps. 

We – me, Penny, my wife and three children, John, Joshua and Jemima – have just moved into the area. I realise with a start it’s been three months, even though it still seems like yesterday. Signing on with the GP is new to me, though Penny and the kids have already availed themselves of the services on offer. As I wait for the woman, who’s called me to order to continue, I take in the seedy surroundings. It isn’t swish or modern or in any way suggestive of success. The carpet is stained and threadbare; the walls a scuffed magnolia and the ceiling covered in some sort of square tiling that appears to have been dipped in tea. It is not comforting.

The woman is peering at something that seems to be bringing on a migraine, such is her pained expression. I begin to say I am indeed the Harold Spittle of whom she speaks, but I’ve barely reached the opening pronoun of my planned sentence when she holds up a hand to restrain my enthusiasm. After a silence of Pinteresque proportions, she reaches out with a biro and makes a neat tick on a sheet of graph paper. The paper stays where it has been put. Nothing bursts into flames or shrieks in pain and she breathes out. Neither the world nor her employment seem to be about to end.

Armageddon avoided, she looks at me. “Mr Spittle?”

I nod, not wanting add to her stress in any way.

“You have an appointment with Dr Trebushay about your penis, I believe?”

What is it about certain words that whenever they are articulated, they are always preceded by unexpected silences into which said word will echo?

I nod again, daring to neither speak nor glance at my now, no doubt engrossed audience.

“The doctor has asked if you wish to have a chaperone in the event that she needs to inspect your―”

“No, that’s fine,” I hurriedly squeak. Considering the average age of the remaining patients I think this woman saying ‘penis’ twice inside a minute might constitute gross negligence, given that the purpose of this establishment is to save lives

“Room five.”

There is one door that leads towards the back of the building and I push my way through. After a short dark corridor there is another small waiting room. I look around, wondering if I should wait but after a moment’s contemplation I notice the sign telling the reader the area is for patients waiting to see doctors in rooms one to three. Taking a breath I continue to the next corridor.

When I made the appointment, there was something about the name of the family’s nominated GP that rang a bell. Naturally I assumed I was merely confusing myself so didn’t mention it to Penny. As I turn the corner and am confronted by a petite blonde woman in a white coat, indicating her doctoral status I now wish I had, because I’m sure I know her.

Indeed since she is smiling at me in a way that goes beyond mere professional courtesy, I’m pretty certain I’m right. Shit.

“Harry? How are you?”

It’s when she giggles that I remember. Polly Trebushay was a locum at my parents’ GP practice in Hampshire during the Great Storm of October 1987. That alone would usually be insufficient for me to remember someone’s name, even someone young, petite and blonde, but that would be to ignore the fact we were trapped by the fallen trees when Penny went into labour, about to give birth to our son John at the same time as an old friend of ours, Amos, who was dying of AIDS took a turn for the worse. Polly defied the dangers to help us, for which I will forever be grateful.

She begins to move in close and I realise, with a growing horror that she is intent on kissing me.

Oh God, why do people do this? It’s just so French, this need to bounce cheeks, this face-sumo wrestling. We’re almost strangers. Penny works in the performing arts and, okay, they virtually lick spleens when they greet each other but this is a doctor who I last saw maybe nine years ago. Is this pre-emptive affection appropriate? Especially as the subject of my penis is about to dominate our conversation?

Of course I head in for the kiss, telling myself not to be tense, be cool. I’m a fully functioning adult male with responsibilities and a family. I can manage the geometry of the air kiss. It’s only when I’ve taken her by the arms and am presenting my right cheek to hers that I notice (a) the horror in her expression and (b) how she is desperately leaning away for me as if she’s just caught a whiff of my industrial strength body odour.

I leap back. “Sorry. I thought. Thing is… you moved… and… stupid of me.”

She now thinks I’m a creep and will call the police. I will probably be sectioned.

She laughs, a tinkling descending scale of a noise. “I’m as blind as a bat without my specs. I just wanted to be sure it was you. You’ve not changed.”

That is such rubbish, nice though it is to hear from someone as patently lovely as Dr Trebushay. My hair is receding like a spring tide, my waist is expanding like a universe – indeed soon they’ll measure it in feet not inches – and my recent attempts to grow a beard, while of a satisfactorily even coverage has revealed, through the variety of its hues and tints a whole raft of ancestral components in my DNA that my parents have never mentioned. “You too.”

“Apart from the length and colour of my hair?” She’s led us into a small consulting room and taken a seat. For a moment she fumbles amongst the papers and, finding her glasses slips them on, before glancing at some notes on her desk.

Was her hair not blonde before? I could have sworn…

She swings round in her chair and crosses her legs, causing the lab coat to fall open and reveal two long and rather delightful limbs. She pushes her skirt down so it almost reaches her knees and waits until I meet her gaze.

“So. Your penis?”

It feels like one of those ‘life in front of your eyes’ moments that drowning men, and, I assume women are meant to experience. On the one hand, this woman is a qualified doctor whose training will have required her to confront the natural reluctance of English men to discuss their most intimate organ with anyone, save in the context of (a) humour or (b) potential sexual activity. A neutral conversation involving ones penis is simply not within the normal range of social convention for which a man like me – lawyer, partner in City firm, nearly forty, married, with three children – has been prepared.

“Tell me about it.”

If that is meant to lubricate the discussion, it fails on so many levels, not least because I have managed to word-associate ‘lubricate’ with ‘penis’ in the presence of an attractive woman. Clearly this is not a request for me to describe said organ and, in truth, while I have a daily hands-on relationship with said appendage I would struggle to describe it with any confidence. It’s brownish, possible more brownish that my natural skin tone, not that I can explain that, bigger than my thumb, maybe not as big as my big toe – why am I choosing digits as the unit of penile measurement? – and with a pretty even circumference. The one detail that is the most commonly discussed, when penises do raise their ugly heads – there I go again, mentally double-entendring – but one I cannot begin to imagine speaking about right now – is its length. I re-experience the excruciating embarrassment of the time I measured it – I was 19 I think – only to find it barely reached a pathetic and unnaturally tiny (or so I felt) five inches given my only source of comparison – a Men Only magazine I found in some fly-tipping on my way to Hall of Residence at University in my first term there – suggested real men produced double-digit dongs.

“It’s okay, Harry. I’ve dealt with penises a lot.”

Truly, that feels like an odd boast and one I assume she must be reluctant to make at most dinner parties. I suppose my expression shows my surprise, or perhaps admiration for this cold-headed chutzpah.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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21 Responses to The Labours Of Harry #books #cover

  1. Darlene says:

    Written with your usual sense of humour and wit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am tempted to say I can see this growing into something big, but that would be puerile!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 says:

    Oh! Geof looking forward to this and love the cover, if your doing a tour let me know if I can help 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Terrific teaser, Geoff. Let’s do a tour.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a great milestone, Geoff. Thanks for sharing the generous excerpt. Huge congrats! Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hats, horns, and hooters – rock on with your bad self!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jennie says:

    Terrific, Geoff. I smiled the whole time. Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

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