Cyclist

The Job 5

CHAPTER 5
Mam and Dad were by my bedside when I woke again. I had clearly lost it once more, and as I tried to sit up straighter the room danced around me, the walls moving up and down and my stomach matching them. Mam noticed and passed me the bowl that had been left on the bedside locker.

“What happened, love?”

I thought of the two coppers, shuddered, and shook my head. Not now, Mam. Dad wouldn’t let it lie, though.

“What did he do, love? Did he…”

The Job 4

CHAPTER 4
He was a big man, and I thought I recognised him from somewhere, but my mind wasn’t working as he slid sideways in the car, pushing the door open and then reaching round it to take another handful of my hair.

I found myself almost spinning on the spot as he dragged me backwards through the now open car door. Something poked the back of my neck, and he was breathing hard, but his voice was under full control.

“Get your legs in and shut the fucking door. Do it now or I cut you”

The Job 3

CHAPTER 3
Blake was on early turn the next day, and after all the messing about in Merthyr I had the delight of a day off. I needed it, to be honest, but I didn’t exactly get a lie-in as my dear husband was never exactly light on his feet, nor subtly agile when climbing out of our nice, warm, snuggly bed. Just another hour… please…

“Mam!”

Deep joy. “Yes, Rhod?”

“Mam! No paper!”

“Hang on, love!”

The Job 2

CHAPTER 2
I had no quick, amusing comeback to that particular little hand-grenade. I didn’t know much about the disease, but I had seen more than enough of its victims, and my memories of them left me with no illusions as to Lynne’s future. Poor bloody Alun; my opinion of his morals had turned such a somersault it was probably being greeted by people holding up score cards.

Sisters

The latest offering is now up on Kindle. Search for Sisters, with the author name S.A.A. Calvert. It should also come up under 'Sussex Border Stories' in a couple of days.

The book reference number is ASIN: B076KB1C8H.

Please remember, if you can, to use the Amazon link on the BC home page/below, as Erin and her elves get commission..
https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3...

Sisters 69

CHAPTER 69
It was an even longer drive up this time, as our two charges needed extra special care. More stops, partly for them, but also because I seemed to tire more easily as my body adapted to being drained of its precious bodily fluids every few minutes, or at least one fluid. Siân was glowing, despite our interrupted sleep, and I am sure I must have looked insufferably smug.

Sisters 66

CHAPTER 66
We went through the same performance yet again, bobbing up and down as the judge entered and took his seat. I really missed my wife’s presence beside me, her strength being all that had kept me from screaming at the miserable old bigot, but I had boys and girls with me, and that meant I had my own responsibilities to face.

Sisters 65

CHAPTER 65
Once again, we trooped into the court, taking our little block of seats, and once again we got to see the unusual spectacle of a defence barrister doing precisely sod-all.

Angharad had delivered a whole salvo of bombshells, if bombs came in salvoes, rhat is, and I would have expected any honest lawyer to have picked it all apart, chewing away on everything from the fact that she seemed to have no evidence other than her memory to the vindictive nature she had demonstrated in her outbursts.

The Job 1

CHAPTER 1
Bloody cold and wet, typical bastard weather when I had the stupidity to pick a bloody skirt. I mean, on a stag, in winter, in Wales---I should have known better. I walked as casually as I could back to the car, where Alun would hopefully have had the heater on. He had, and had also killed the interior light so as not to show out so badly when I opened the door.

“What we got, Di?”

“Definitely a meet coming. That’s another vanload of booze just gone in; they won’t want to risk keeping that on site too long”

“Dogs?”

Sisters 64

CHAPTER 64
I was still puzzled by the defence, as they seemed to have done nothing at all in the way of cross-examination. No smoke and mirrors, no mud-slinging (Angharad had already collared that role) and no awkward questions at all. They had reserved their energy for procedural tics, such as the objections to Ambrose’s perceived delivery of hearsay.

Sisters 63

CHAPTER 63
The cross-examination by the defence was a farce. I couldn’t see where it was going, but Delyth seemed to dismiss it out of hand. It didn’t involve Scripture, therefore it was beneath contempt. I was caught squarely between enjoying seeing her slapped down and at the same time stitching up Carwyn. My head span.

A Longer War

Following superb work by Julia P I have just finished amending the formatted manuscript she provided (some other errors I had already seen, plus a couple of revisions, as well as copyright, 'other books by', etc) and now published it on Kindle. It will take a day or three to surface, but it will be along in short order. Remember that this site provides links to Amazon that earn commission.

A Longer War 76

CHAPTER 76
I walked up to the side door again, letting myself in and going directly to the vestry, where Ruth, naturally, had the kettle on ready. She already knew my habits, and I had a sudden warm memory of Wilf’s. Time for a brew?

The doctor had been as gentle as she could be, but her message couldn’t be mistaken.

“So what’s plan, then, Doctor?”

Sparkle

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Author: 

This coming weekend sees the Manchester Sparkle event, written of by Bev Taff a few times. I will be there from Saturday afternoon as I will be working on one of their 'market stalls' all Sunday for my support network.

If anyone is about, stop by and say hello!

Better things

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Author: 

I am coming to the end of another book, and it is triggering all sorts of thoughts about my life. I went through transition some years ago, from a hairy rugby-playing 'bloke' with a beard to a plump woman with bobbed hair and a taste for print dresses. I went up to York a week ago, for what used to be the Cyclists' Touring Club's annual rally, and I rediscovered myself.

A Longer War 75

CHAPTER 75
Matthew was as solidly cheerful as I should have expected, and we made quite the show of old warriors at the top table. Some judicious work by phone had secured the attendance of all the lads from the show, and I found myself looking forward to watching it. I stayed off the booze as my guts were not feeling too well, but the food went down well, and of course I was with friends. Such a different night to a certain evening one February. Val was sitting at another table along with Susie and Andy, and there was a large group from the yard.

A Longer War 74

CHAPTER 74
I left the church feeling far more optimistic than before my entry. Ruth (“My dad was the Reverend, Gerald”) was far from the stuffy man I remembered from our old family church, seeming more like the Padre we had fought next to over the Channel. She had depths to her that seemed to show that history of some complicated sort lay behind her smile, and more than that she made me feel good about and happy within myself.

A Longer War 73

CHAPTER 73
I ended up walking past my car, my mind elsewhere. As Susie would put it, I was on autopilot. I had wondered, I had worried, but even with Andy’s nagging I had managed to put it to the back of my mind. Once again, I thought of Susie’s turn of phrase: I had been in that African river, de Nile.

A Longer War 72

CHAPTER 72
That was a profoundly different experience to our earlier trip, and not just because the only real comrade I had with me on the second visit was Ernie. There was far more ceremony for starters, the two mayors seemingly trying to outdo each other in matters of sash and chain, and we were almost marched down the main street behind a brass band apparently made up of firemen. I didn’t think there were actually that many people in the village.

A Longer War 70

CHAPTER 70
He was blushing again, but there was a grin behind the lowered head and shuffling hands.

“Yeah, can’t really hide that one, can I? We haven’t set a date, but, well, it was sort of obvious. Pete asked Laura, and I saw the way her mum was smiling, and it just made sense to follow the boy’s example. Too many wasted years…”

He faltered, just for a few seconds, but then the smile was back, twice as bright and utterly natural this time.

A Longer War 69

CHAPTER 69
We didn’t see much of Pete for a while, and before I knew it Easter and its rush of tourists was on us. The older I got, the faster the years went, like water down a plug hole. Darren was looking at his approaching exams as well, so I ended up spending far more time on my knees in a boat than sat in the office. That bit was covered by Susie and Doreen, of course, a hand-painted name-plate prominent on one desk, but in the end I couldn’t put the hours in that were needed, as my knees simply couldn’t take it.

A Longer War 68

CHAPTER 68
The floods weren’t bad that winter, but as usual customer numbers collapsed for a couple of months. We kept ourselves afloat by doing that for others, with a steady succession of boats to hoist out and check for damage, fouling, caulking and the rest. Trevor and Ricky knew what they were doing with that, and it let Darren push ahead with his studies. If things went well, he would get his certificates in time for the school holiday period, just when they would be needed most.

A Longer War 67

CHAPTER67
That was a conversation-stopper if ever I heard one, and even with Susie living under my roof I had difficulty putting together everything Pete was saying. It was the pronouns, really. There was his lad, with a lecturer called John, and all Pete was saying was ‘she’ and ‘her’.

“Pete, mate. Look. I’m not getting this all in shape in my head. Start from scratch?”

Shooting

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Author: 

Just finished a conference by phone, and it was chaos. There has been a stabbing, shooting and murder-by-car at our Parliament, and many of the people I was talking to were in lockdown, literally. Everyone I know (including one member of the House of Lords) in the area is safe.

A Longer War 66

CHAPTER 66
Matthew’s voice was still strong, despite his years. Rodney had spoken, I had said a few words, but it was Matthew who delivered the message, in a parish church in West Sussex.

“Friends. Comrades. Maurice Flanagan was an officer in the pay corps. The war in which so many of us suffered and lost so much, yet won a prize beyond value, passed him by. It was not his choice, for fate and the War Office had delivered him to a desk rather than an armoured vehicle, had clad him in Number Twos rather than armour plate or battledress.

Sisters 61

CHAPTER 61
I wandered back along the hallway as my wife thundered down the stairs, and beat me to the living room. As I entered, everyone seemed to be wrapped around everyone else, but all eyes turned to me. I kept the glum face on as long as I could, but Sar wrestled the test wand out of my hand.

“Yes! Two-nil!”

A Longer War 65

CHAPTER 65
I was really at a loss without her, and when Pete left shortly afterwards to take his boy down I was almost lost. It was an education, in a sense. I had spent so long on my own after Tricia had been taken I had felt that I was comfortable in my solitude, that I didn’t need people around me. I realised just then, as the house emptied and the nearest of my friends headed south, that I had merely been numb, not comfortable. Just because you lose the feeling in a hand or other bit doesn’t mean it can’t get damaged, just that the pain doesn’t tell you if it does. That had been my life: numbed, no pain, but steadily being damaged by my isolation.

A Longer War 64

CHAPTER 64
I have never liked doctors. I don’t mean that I don’t like the people who do the job, as Julian and Charles clearly demonstrated. I just don’t like the places, the smells. That stay in hospital after I had met Susie had been more than enough to be going on with for a very long time.

A Longer War 62

CHAPTER 62
I almost lost track of the year after that, for it was all rather an anti-climax following on from such events. We got some new boats in to replace some of the older cruisers, for the people who wanted them rather than traditional narrowboats always wanted all mod cons, whereas the other sort kept our little souvenir shop turning over nicely. I have heard all sorts of words applied to what we sold, the rudest being ‘tat’ and the politest ‘folk art’, but the hand-painted enamel plates and watering cans sold well.

A Longer War 61

CHAPTER 61
“What brought this on, Pete?”

He was silent for just the few seconds it took me to realise how worried he really was.

“Ah, Gerald, mate, it’s how he is. Bloody stubborn, pig-headed, independent, call it what you will. I can’t tell him… Shit, mate, he thinks I’m lining him up here cause I don’t think he can cope on his own, find his own…”

Another short silence, and again I waited.

“I nearly said ‘find his own feet’, and that would… I’m not making sense, am I?”

Sisters 60

CHAPTER 60
It went better than I had expected, at least as far as his embarrassment went. He actually seemed to be looking forward to it, so after an obligatory bit of teasing about how the pot had been filled, he started in on his own questions.

“I don’t know, Tone. Thing is, we’re looking at a sort of simultaneous birth thing. If we can manage it, that is”

A Longer War 60

CHAPTER 60
Ashley had been right, and there was no chance of a proper knees-up for the newly engaged, so we settled for a proper night in for the New Year. Work came back to haunt us, but in the end it was a relief getting back out of the house and seeing what damage the usual winter floods had done.

We were lucky that year, no wet feet in the King’s Arms, and the first few days of the year were spent setting out priorities for maintenance and refurbishment. Susie had somehow managed to find a source of Bolinder spares and reconditioned engines in Birmingham, and then added to her not-so-little coup by negotiating an incredibly cheap contract for traditional enamel ware with an artists’ studio in Camden.

A Longer War 58

CHAPTER 58
Harwich was visible from a long way off, or at least the big white reactor dome at Sizewell. There was nothing really visible of England apart from the dome for what seemed like hours, but eventually we were passing the moles or piers or whatever they are called and nosing up to the dock. There was the usual hanging about while sailors did sailor things, and then we were called down to our vehicles. Pete drove, silent that morning, and in a very short while we picked up the first motorway up past Cambridge, leading on to the A1 after a frighteningly busy dual carriageway to Huntingdon.

A Longer War 57

CHAPTER 57
Nobody said much at breakfast the next day, but we were all packed and ready to go. Pete had spent some time on the phone to the ferry company, and after he had explained the reason for our change in plans they agreed to bring forward the day our tickets would be valid for. It would be an evening departure and an overnight voyage to Harwich before the last leg up through England. As we finished the bread, cheese and sliced meats, Susie reached across to take Pete’s hand.

“Pete, love, who’s going down with you to meet plane?”

A Longer War 56

CHAPTER 56
The bus was quiet that morning, Ashley seeming a little lost. Pete was driving, so I made my way down to where the young man was staring out of the window. He’d said nothing over breakfast, and apart from a quiet ‘morning’ nothing at all since we got up. I slipped into the seat beside him.

“Bit quiet today, son”

He looked down at his hands. “Bit thinking to do, Mr Barker. Not much sleep last night”

Sisters 59

CHAPTER 59
Annie’s face worked once more in little twitches, her breath catching.

“Diane? What….”

“Lainey’s told me it all, or I suppose what she thinks I should know, A—nnie. I didn’t want to rock your boat, and, well, Elaine, this is a bit of a surprise, isn’t it? Not quite what we agreed, not at all”

A Longer War 55

CHAPTER 55
Pete was driving the bus the next morning, and I caught him giving me a sly look every so often, when he clearly thought I wouldn’t catch him at it, for he broke into a cheery smile each time I looked round quickly. I collared him before I boarded.

“What’s up, pal?”

“What do you mean?”

“You looking at me all queer, like. What’s on your mind?”

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