9. Consideration

I said to Friend Peaudane, as we walked Dearne Flats by the serpentine river that he has more than proved his worth as a husband. I would gladly accept him in such a position and be willing to bear him children to cement our association. He answered that it is only a beginning and we must both strive for the ends I described to him at the beginning, extravagance in our generosity towards others, both personally and publicly. It is now Friend Peaudane, that wishes me to call him Richard as he shall call me Sarah and that we should wait a time yet till we are married. He has his duty to Joseph and family to fulfill.

Yesterday he was present when Susannah, Joseph’s wife gave birth to their second son. Joseph and his brother James who is now living there too pacing up and down, wanting to drown his sorrows, while Richard soothed his furrowed brow with optimistic expressions. But, upon the reception of the child after its sojourn with Susannah, Joseph was all Pray god children are ugly when there but bairns. Richard saw the pride in Joseph’s eyes. Richard wishes to prove his worth to me as a wife as soon as Joseph and Susannah have found a cottage at a place called Old Mill. Here Joseph will raise kine and have a loom. His brother James is to
lodge with Mrs Jackson at the King’s Head. I shall move in with Richard promptly.

The Brandished Knife

A Filey Clairvoyant

You will meet the Right Man and know it in two years time.

His name begins with,

I can’t quite distinguish

a P or B or R.’

 Well, I’d had- a Bernard and Paul.

I feel sorry for Ray

tells me his fat

girlfriend just sits

around house

no housework.

He prepares all meals.

She just sits

reading Mills and Boon.

drinks and sleeps

Never together when out.

She with her friends, he with his.

He goes out,

 returns she’s brandishing a knife,

 interrogates him

 where he’s been.

He is a designer

 witty with it.

 Manager at my workplace

 he sends me a picture

of an American Indian

 with palm up

and five statements on how

we should get together.

I ask

 Why haven’t you moved out?

He says

When my last marriage broke up

my wife got house and everything

 and my girlfriend won’t move out.

He makes sense.

I want a boyfriend with either

 motorbike or a landrover.

He’s just sold his bike.

Landrover is soft topped.

Takes me and Ben out walking

 to Dark Peak.

We enjoy pictures rather than words.

He makes meals for the family.

My friends said if my last husband turns up

Ray

would not hesitate to lay him out.

We spend evenings planning places

 things we can do, together.

He smokes

socially when he drinks, like me.

Suddenly,

Christmas he moves in.

On way out to a Parents evening

 Ben’s school I tell him

We’ll talk when I return

On return I find all drink gone

him crashed out drunk in my bed.

In morning he says

Please forgive me.

Over the next month we go out

hold hands, and are gentle

down by the bridge while Ben plays

 ahead with our dog.

Over next month he fills my wardrobes

with his clothes

my shelves with his CD’s.

Then I notice

him going to pub straight after work,

returns home crashes out to sleep.

he works drinks sleeps

Comes from work after pub

says he’s tired, sleeps rest of night

I wait for him downstairs.

I sit alone in house on an evening

or when he is in

he gawps at TV in bedroom.

He does not let me to go

out with my friends.

We go out again after I have words.

Two weeks later he is back

drunk and sleeping again.

On few occasions we go out

he leaves me on my own

 he spends evening talking to a biker

or someone at bar.

 I talk to his fat girlfriend Sophie.

She’d been holding a knife because she

was cutting veg, as she always did

preparing meals for him while he went

Out and got drunk.

He catches me talking to her

says 

‘Don’t believe her, she’s a liar. She’ll say

anything to get me back with her.’

Tells me all the girls at work

are after him.

 

I talk to them.

They wouldn’t touch him.

He promises me I’ll not go drinking

starts excuses when I smell it on his breath

 told him so.

I say

I’ll go to a counselling session with you

He’s having none of it.

his tears when I phone him at local pub and tell him

Your stuffs in the driveway.

 Down on his knees he is, tears and moans, begging me to reconsider. Says

Your right in everything you say. I’m at fault and I’ll change.

He is really suffering. I nearly break

 but people never change.

 I meet him a month or two later while out with my mates.

He comes in pub.

Sends one of his mates over to mr

Ray wants a private word

 I say

 Whatever Ray has to say he can say while my mates are present.

Anyway he comes over.

I aske

Hows Sophie?

he tells me

 Eff off.

I feel nothing.

Mark is the man for me, but he is married and she is kind. I have known the family for ten years now. It is only recently I admit to myself I love Mark. I would not hurt their kids . I have seen them settle down round meal table of an evening. I come home, collapse on sofa and cry for I know we would be good together. want to settle down. For a time with Ray I forget about Mark. Ray never knew about him. I see Mark less. I will not move from this cul de sac because I feel safe with Mark down the road and the fabulous view of the moors. Perhaps because I love Mark I find it difficult to love anyone else.  I’ll keep looking.

Writing Happened While…

1. Govt Scheme Horticultural Handyman, first F/T job,rarified palms bruise concrete flags, posh git labourer, grey plastic bin deer head

2. Mining Security Guard: Already dealt. See WP site. 1st 12hr night shift. Stomach upturned. Zombied. Massive moon Coal dust Fitters market

3. Post Office. Temp. Associate. Lob letter/parcel correct labelled bag, pigeon hole. All taking fag break toilets. Refused cross picket.

4. Employment Assistant/Officer. Unemployment Benefit clear plastic screen with trough divide jobless aim plastic pens via trough. Filing

5. Café Assistant. Tea/Coffee stainless steel handle tripped too far. Scalded. Crap arms too short cleaning clear glass food display. 1 week

6. . P/T Creative Writing/Literature Tutor designed/taught. Reverie. Some wanted/needed to write/read. Wordworld for all. Some succeed move on. Reverie

7. Pet Stall Assistant semi open market, Ferret Woman’s ferret Anorak collar, pig’s ears, dog chew sticks/shoes, biscuits, White Rat girl

8.Recruitment Agency Admin. Industrial Estate dust paths, checking pay, filing, Belly Buster Sarnies, gritty teeth, sweltering office

9.Bottle Factory Transport Admin. Ex Squaddie boss, Tachograph check, massive warehouses bottle packed, Swipe computer linked pallets

10. Catalogue Contact Centre Advisor: 3 bus there, 3 back. Learnt phone technique, dealing with difficult customers. Golf course chill walk

11. Customer Experience Advisor: Awkward gas meters, serial rail enquiries, seasonal water problems,
broadband difficulties, white warehouse

Apprentice

Hels awake ••••
Drifting and voices.
“Greetings my dear friend ever yours faithfully”. He cannot remember
his name. The song comes. Derivation. Himself. Others. Pass by. Pressure. Depth. Density. Ashes. Corpses. Thoughts to be rearranged. Every desert stops somewhere. Hell. Never recognising himself In the mirror. Shadows. Wrinkles. The master who said “Hels only begun •••
a juvenile”. Puffs and sucks and rests his hand. “Few years experience. His Ideas’ II lave dampened.” Enzymes. Saliva In his mouth. Drying up.>. The chamber of digestion. Meat of animals, their milk and the forms
of plants wi I I not last. Feeding under pressure. Old system. Giving out pain when It does not agree. No room for argument. Nature. Thinking. “I derive” said the apprentice.
He’s intent and young •••
The easiest derivation. Himself. Language is too soft. He worries about his heart too often. He eats everybody. Everybody loves him.
The excess of youth. Shall they dance in the bed. He’ll have your swivel, If you take his screw. There Is more to this lIfe. Death ought to know. Perhaps, you’re a boy. Perhaps youlre a girl. Take him Into your gutter. He’ll be your rat, cat or anybody you feel like roiling
up in your cigarette dear.
The song goes.
The waitress laid his cup of coffee on the laminated surface. Slipping from daydream to reality was not easy for him. Whl+e noise gradually would become the rush of traffic and chatter of old men and old women.
“So and so went Into hospital today. So and so passed his exams. So and so Is finally gettIng married ••• “
All these people Involved In the Great Necessity. He wished to Just sit and listen and listen. He could not. Boredom would edge Its way In speaking of death and Inactivity. Daydreaming was for children.
Those without responsibility. Without a mother, grandparents, girlfriend and children.
22
His mother was In “The Groves”. The visit would take place when his wife returned from Marks and Spencers. She had to return some clothes that were too big. The honeymoon had been spoiled. He tapped his cigarette. Watched the ash roll and settle.
Romance Is the story of an elsewhere; a challenging escape. Not from reality but to a rearrangement of It. He loved rearranging reality, rearranging the ashes with his cigarette. ThinkIng of the perfec~ way to kill. The perfect way to love. The perfect way to live. Mere
conjecture. He stabbed his cIgarette Into the tr’av.
His wife surprised him. Tired. Wrinkles. He could not discern her. His mouth was dry. His wife was the woman who had decided to cope with his problem.
“Michael. I got them changed”.
“Oh good. Are we going then?”
He got up quickly. Took the bag she held. Strode purposefully out. Not waiting tor her.
Trees. Bushes. Gravel drive. Middle of a council estate. Secluded. Pass between two high hedges. Brushing the car. All green. Then the house. Assertive. Confident. Solid. Red brick and ashlar. Palatial. Columned. Resting place. A cat dashed. Leaving cream steps. Old house. Old people.
They were Inarticulate and III-informed. It was a new experience. What was to be obtained from It?
His mother was a child. A quiet child. She had come through her adolescent excess. Cutting squares out of new curtains with scissors. Speaking to nobody In the house. Wrapping newly bought food In paper
and placing It In a neighbour’s bin. Never acknowledging the work others did for her. Stuffing paper Into plug-holes and runnIng the taps. Flooding the house. They decided she would be better cared for In 8 home.
23
III:

pressure of responsibi lity. people. Alone. The Desert. other people.
“Are vou we II ? moTher”, he asked.
“Has Michael come veT?” she looked aT him.
“I’m Michael moTher!” he Took her hands to. his.
“You are. 0 Ves, hello Michael!” she felt for his face. “Hello mo+her , moTher!”
“Yes Michael, It Is Michael isn’T It?”
“This Is Julie, mo+her ,”
“Hello Julie. Is she your new girlfriend, Michael?”
“No mother, she’S my wife. Bemember the wedding mother? Uncle Albert
was there. He talked to you. Remember”.
“Uncle Alfred. Your wife. You learn something new everyday. Don’t
you Michael?”
“Yes mother”.
“I’ve been sick again Michael, last night ••• nurse cleaned it up. Can’t keep my food down like I used to Michael”.
She would be a corpse soon.
Pass between two high hedges. Remembering his mother, like daydreaming. Without the responsibility of the present. How she packed him off to _~ch’:Jc’. How much fun she was. Play I ng pooh-is+ I cks from the V!oc~:r.,(lden bridge. Down the path ful I of sunshine summer and green. Mere
conjecture.
“Out of it. Michael, face up to It”. His wife drove with precision, accuracy and confidence. “We’ I I visit her next week”.
Michael sometimes wondered whether the marriage had been a good Idea. Julie sometimes wondered about life married to a Daydreamer. Each could sense the hell in the others. Th.at limit to their Independence -, Always the other person to consider. The depths. The density. The The Great Necessity of coping with other
Where the desert stopped. The hell of
Drifting and voices. The song comes. People eating each other. The need to know. A fork. The need to keep secrets. A knife. Corr~spondence. A table. The children. Those who had to Ieern to cope with responsibility. On a separate smaller Table. Michael was among them. The apprentices. Trying TO remember names of people, of places.
Trying TO be responsible.
24
Otherwise. A wack across the ear. The steel spatula. The wooden spoon across cold bare le9s• Other people had to be able to Rccept you. If they did nOT. The system gave OUT pain. No room for argument. Michael derived pain from other people. It was easy to see the source of his life. Himself. Imagination. The song goes.
Julie drove up the drive. Stopped. Unlatched the door. Jangling keys.
Ashen faces stared out from The cafe with its laminated tables.
“Had a good day?” said a man dressed in white.
”’Fair to middling,” he said. ‘iHis mother was “alright.”
“That’s good. Now come on Michael”, the man said as he opened the
. door.
“My wife?”
“Now M I chae I • No more daydream I ng” • “Coming next week for him are we Julie”.
“Of course” she said. Closing the car-door. Putting the keys In the ignition. Leaving Michael with the man In white staring after her. The car dipped from the drive.
“That letter arrived, Michael. From Uncle Albert”.
The man In white led him into the building. Michael was stil I awake and intent.

The Day Grandad Disappeared

A knock at our front door. A Doctor has brought Grandad home. Grandad has gone into a Doctors believing he has an appointment.

Grandad goes for a paper, for the footie pages. As he does everyday, dressed immaculately, jacket, waistcoat, tie, black shoes shining.

Nana and he arrive a couple of days ago to help Dad again in caring for Mam, who is fighting Breast Cancer. Always a quiet man. Keeps himself to himself. Even when I am a child and we go to see the latest James Bond he says very little. He talks footie but I am not into that. He does Littlewoods Pools and Spot the Ball.

He comes in from sorting at the Post Office, walks through the lounge door, bangs the door with one hand as his other hand grabs his nose and laughs. He is good, we laugh too.

Grandad is very late. Grandad left three hours ago. Nana wants to call local hospitals fearing he has been knocked down. Dad drives around the village, pops into the newsagents. Grandad has not bought his paper.

My grandad suffers illnesses. Among my late Nanas belongings I discover a note he has written.

Ellesmere Port.    Pneumonia May     1942 Dec 1942

When I had been in the army a year my health began to deteriate  I had Pneumonia twice in six months The last time I almost lost my life They sent for my wife and sat with me alnight  When I was twenty two I had mumps in hospital again I was never rid of styes in my eyes having to go in hospital again as Both my eyes closed. Had pains in my Back although I didn’t go in hospital I was put on light duties for a fortnight When I was on leave I saw my own doctor who gave me injection in my Back I have a disabled Badge in my car and  am under hospital care as an outpatient for my stomach another specialist for my chest.

The note appears to have been written sometime later, perhaps as evidence for a new doctor.

In a 1993 poetry anthology ‘Rats For Love:The Book’ my poem ‘Bait’ describes the banter between Nana and Grandad. It describes how she felt about his forgetfulness before he was diagnosed:

Married forty years to the same man. Ate with her mouth open. Talked with her mouth full. Masticated his forgetfulness through two romantic lovers between the pages. Cut with some bloodless cold steel then tongued from cheek to cheek morsels of his past with her: Who lost his false teeth … … Ieft his pipe on the bin lid outside … kept new clothes unwrapped for years … did not like driving in the dark … ? She levered chewed events from good teeth, pushed them down to the acid below through shredding walls to feed blood and bile that formed into words goading him to grab the bait. And when he did she hauled him in to be filleted, iced and sold to others as good quality food to be eaten.

The title is a play on words that is not made obvious in the poem. My Nana is born in Sunderland and the North East dialect word for food is ‘bait.’

Especially after Mam dies of Cancer, Grandad gradually forgets how to care for himself. Nana looks after him until it gets too much for her too.

 Nana buys packs of incontinence pants as Grandad loses control of his bowels. She puts new ones on, bins the old. Grandad does not help, as on one of many occasions he gets into bed, soils himself, takes off the pants while in bed, and throws them on the bedroom floor soiled side down.

A large man Nana has to bath him, then try to get him out of the bath when he will not move.

He has spells in local care homes, gradually stays longer and longer. A respite for Nana.

Nana ensures he has what she calls ‘decent’ clothes in his suitcase, each piece of clothing painstakingly labelled with his name. When he returns home she is forever phoning the homes about someone elses clothes in the returned suitcase. On one occasion, Grandad walks five miles from Care home to Nana’s.

Last time I see Grandad my wife and I treat both him and Nana to a Sunday pub lunch at Knox Arms. A  stone built pub about two miles from Nanas.

Nana dresses Grandad immaculately, razor sharp trouser creases, spotless shirt, waistcoat, matching tie  Throughout, our visit Grandad never speaks. We order a Taxi to the pub. At the Knox, Nana tucks a paper napkin into Grandad’s shirt, and when it arrives cuts his roast dinner up for him. Nana talks throughout about daily problems with Grandads incontinence pads and staff in the homes, the uselessness of Social Services. On the walk home I notice Grandads waistcoat and shirt gravy stained and ribbons of carrot cling to the underside of his lip.

I search his eyes for recognition of who I am, from the time I say hello to the time I say goodbye to him sat in his favourite chair at Nanas. My Grandad has disappeared..

The Broken Watch extract early first draft of novel The Four Gifts

I talk to the dead.
They give better evidence than the living.
Especially when you’re dreaming. Let’s look the evidence. My father had just died at my sisters wedding. I was patrolling a closing pit, when this ghost starts speaking to me. Honest, no wind up. You hear all the ghost tales you want on patrol as a security guard but this is true. And it looked like our local grocer. Spoke like him too. He said

Sorry to put the wind up you, Jim. Just to say your dad’s OK. It was just Tracy saying I do after she’d told your dad that she were’ having a bairn. You get the picture.

, Now Jimmy Boy … · God I hated our grocer when he called me that. ‘Where’s you’re Dad ‘s pocket watch?

I searched my pockets. Against the cold I was wearing three coats, four pockets each.
Come on I haven’t got all day

I wanted to say why do want it. It hasn’t worked since the day the Red Elephant, (as my wife Mary called her father-in-law), died anyway. I found it. Handed it to him. It hovered in the air above his palm.

It was then I noticed.
He was dressed odd. Leather aproned and shoed like a blacksmith. He held an flat metal object with holes in it. The holes went from large to small. Suddenly my skin prickled with heat as if from a furnace and he seemed to glow with a gold aura.. I saw him take a long piece of hot metal and pull it through one of the holes so it became thinner. He pulled it through smaller and smaller holes till it clicked what he was doing. He was wiremaking. He opened the back of the watch and removed a piece of wire. He replaced it with the bit he’d just made. When he handed it back to me the watch told the right time and ticked. I remembered I’d arranged to meet Mary after my shift. Part of our agreement when she found out I had a mistress called Linda.
‘Now you can you do something for us. Find out who killed your best schoolfriend’
Said the Grocer-wiremaker, bringing me back.
LOZZY!’ says I, mouth open, drooling at the watch. You get the picture. ‘Ay,’ he says cool as cucumber.
‘Any time to … ‘ ‘Yes or no.’
‘Yes. ‘ I said without thinking. Letting myself into God knows what. , You know don ‘t you?’
‘We still do jigsaws in heaven.’ he said and disappeared.
At three-thirty in the morning my eyes start going. I stumble round the pit in the cold. It’s only the cold that keeps me awake. As it is my stomach feels queasy and my throat is swollen with caffeine. About now I daydream.
Time passes.
Always in my mind is a broken frame in broken house in a desolate garden. The broken frame is that of a sepia photograph on the dusty floor showing nobody I know. The photograph is escaping its frame. It is lit by dusty light from a window, also broken. The white window frame paint is peeling. Tiny holes like pin-pricks, like the wood has been punctured by a hypodermic needle too many times dot the white wood. A used red shotgun cartridge is asleep on the window ledge.
I remember the eaten front door Lozzy and I had to shoulder charge. As we climbed the ‘wooden hill’ of the stairs I recalled the carpeted stairs of my ~ parents I was told to go up when they started shouting. I entered my room as I enter this one. I feel at home in this broken house, this broken room. I look out of my window at the black spot of the motorway crossed by the wobbly metal bridge. We look out of this broken window and see the ivy breaking up the red bricks. We see the weeds crossing paths. The garden is ill. Tall weeds hiding the shape. It had shape once, this garden. It was once cared for. There are strawberries, there are roses, redder perhaps, because they are wilder, like blood. We shout into the garden and nobody answers. Our voices are breaking.

Time passes.

I like light to come to my eyes gradually. I would stand on the slagheap at midday and watch the fleeting clouds pass their shadows over the pit built solidly below. It reminded me of wind gusting through cornfields. White clouds moving over hills in the Lake District or the Peak. I sat on the edge of the manmade hill and saw the different shadows ripple over the great washer building, over the cylindrical slurry tanks, move flat across the concrete bunkers where lay the remains of unused sand, gravel and lime. It reminded me of the darkness a few days before when I was on nightshift at this place. Freezing till the veins of my hands stood up purple and ice encrusted in tlie ground made the concrete more hurtful when you fell like when I delivered the post one Christmas in Royston and shipped, the weight of the bag hauling me down to push and prise open the sprung letter boxes put the letter. through so your whole hand went inside the house and then quick out for the lid to slam shut in your face. The shadows were never what they seemed and as the long night became morning without getting lighter you imagined bushes were people: old men slumped down after working the pit, gentlemen in cloaks, or women in jeans so during the day real people seemed like those shadows. Never what they seemed. I always thought whoever I met wanted to hurt me.

The brash people are like lights snapping on. They hurt my eyes. They frighten me. I want the darkness again. And yet the darkness always makes them what they are not. I imagine shapes that revealed in the spotlight of my hat lamp are not what I imagined. My father hit me when I was nine in a room whose electric brightness was too much for me. It even invaded the darkness behind my wet eyes when I closed them. My mother tried to hug me but she was ironing her dress for going out. She was in her bra and panties. She hugged me to her and all I could see was the bright light, blinding me. I turned away from her, away from the light. Used my own body as a shield for my eyes. Electric light reminds me of grief and tears.

The bulb was especially bright the night my mother told me that .dad and her were divorcing. It had been too bright all the evenings they were arguing themselves into it. I learn gradually. I think in cliches because it’s easier. The light dawns. When someone tells me something I look bemused because it takes a long time for the light to dawn. I have no flashes of inspiration. My intuition is gradual, cumulative. People shine bright lights in my eyes when they try to hurry my thinking along. Because I do not think as fast as they would like me t9. My thoughts are the clouds passing over the redundant pit and this is my life as far as I am concerned.

My last mistress Linda, used to dim the harshness of the lounge light before we had sex on the couch awaiting her son, whom she said did not know we slept together, call ‘Mum. When you coming to bed?’ I always waited half between awake and asleep for his call like a harsh light in the eyes to come and alter the situation, for she always went upstairs and I was left to sleep alone and in comfort the rest of the night.
How do I explain why I went with Linda to my wife, Mary? How would
I explain myself? I looked at my mended watch. Maybe it was a good sign.

A DOG CALLED DEATH

‘How s Martha?’ I said to Mary there in the pub before I arrived. I thought I’d ease the way into talking about US’.
Mary smiled dangerously and looked at me with those white blind eyes.
‘Dreaming again.
I could never tell whether she was talking about me or Martha. I sat down with the words
‘God its brass Monkey weather! ‘She’s been telling me her dreams. I ‘Martha’
‘She thinks her dreams led to Arthur’s death.’ ‘Yeh.
Well, it had been a weird shift so Life may as well be consistent.
Mary went on to tell me that she’d persuaded Martha to bring down from her son Lozzy’s bedroom his box of favourite stuff and from her dressing table her box of memories. She placed her box nearest as if looking into Lozzy’s was too much to begin.
I asked Mary if she wanted another half She said:
‘Just shut up and listen!
I sat back down. No way was I going to tell her about my grocer ghost. ‘Martha took a photograph showing Arthur on their wedding day out of her box’ After a moment when all Mary heard were cars up and down the street, Martha told my wife her ‘first river dream.’

The dream had come to her, unexpected, after Lozzy’s death two weeks previous. Beside the River Dearne some of her furniture was laid out in a field as if it was still in her house: a pair of chairs, a sofa, a dining table, a radio, a dog bowl. She had gone up to each of them and felt forced to ask the question:
-Tell me what makes you you?
To which all of them had answered -Ask another.
She was confused.
Then she felt a wetness touching her leg. She looked down and saw a dog.
It looked familiar, like a greyhound, but not quite. And it spoke:
-Hi! I’m Death. How do you do?
She was too stunned to answer.
-1 understand it must come as bit of a shock to find Death in such beautiful surroundings. 1 met your son Lozzy at the same place. I’m not aware of the Lord of Dreams telling me you would be arriving.
Now Martha knew this dog could give her information on how Lozzy -had died. She woke up, and began to cry. How could she tell Arthur, her husband, that she knew where Lozzy had died and could fmd out why through a dog called Death in her dreams?
‘Weird’ I proffered finishing off the dregs of my pint.. ‘Like me and you’ she said.
‘Eh!’
‘You used to notice me more. My new dress. I’m the one who’s blind. You’re like Martha A world outside and you can’t get beyond your own selfishness. ‘
‘Mary. 1 did not come here to be insulted. I ‘No. You came here to justify lying to me.’ Now listen to another selfish man.
As soon as Martha told Arthur about her dream he said:
– There is no reason to this! Lozzy died. That’s it.
Arthur stood up from the table leaving her to clear the pots.
-And what’s this nonsense about a dog called Death in a dream ? In a dream telling you where and why our son died. Wake up woman!
-1 knew you’d be like this Arthur …
She held a handkerchief to her watering eyes.
-1 knew once 1 told you …
-Nonsense!
Arthur opened the back door and strode the path to his garden shed.

-Please Arthur? There are more things on earth than …
-No! A dream means nowt!
He slammed the shed door.
Just like us’ said Mary.
‘Eh!’ I proffered again, gobsmacked.
Mary said Martha continued:
While Arthur chewed on his anger in the garden shed, I cleared away the pots. I decided to get on his good side and cook his favourite meal. Anticipating his reaction to my news that I could learn about Lozzy’s death through a dog called Death in me dreams, I’d bought a chicken. Arthur liked white, succulent breast with sprouts.
‘Where’s this tale going, Mary? Make sense, lass! ‘Patience, Jim.’
‘Bugger Patience!’
‘Watch your language. Listen and learn!’
Under the bloody thumb again left me looking forward to a pint that evening with Bill my brother-in-law.
Mary continued:
Martha said she binned the giblets and prepared the chicken. It would sit in foil and oil. It’s fragrance would drift out of the kitchen window into the garden shed. Arthur would water at the mouth.
The way to a man’s heart.
I placed the sprouts in a pan, preparing a cup for the green water. Arthur always said:
– Green Waiter is good for thee. Puts hair on thee chest.
Arthur had a bird breast himself All small and hairless.
As I checked the whitening chicken spitting in the oven, I thought of the blackness of the dog called Death. As I turned the sprouts down I thought of the green of the grass by the River Deame where Lozzy had died and Death had stood.
Soon I heard the shed door softly shut, the pad of Arthur’s shoes towards the kitchen door as I drained the green water into his mug. As usual Arthur knew when the chicken were ready.
‘Alright, alright. What’s the point? What are you getting at?’ ‘You can’t see what’s in front of your eyes. ‘
‘No I can’t! I’m a typical man beaten into submission by a superior woman.’ ‘Don’t you dare patronise me. After spoiling our marriage. After lying to me and then having the gall to keep on seeing her.’
‘Look what’s this all about? Explain to me then we can both go.’
‘We agreed to these meetings for a reason. I’ve got no explanation from you as
far as I can see as to why.’ ‘Why?’
‘Give me strength! Why you preferred her company to mine. Wasn’t I good enough for you? Didn’t I fetch and carry enough for you?’
And I stomped out like somebody had set my arse on fire. I wasn’t sitting there to be insulted. I got back from a pint with Jim to find she’d phoned and said she’d see me as usual the following week. The cheek of the chuffmg devil. Also Linda had phoned. She wanted me to come for a meal on my next evening off.

THE HIDDEN RIVER

If I tell a bad tale, I’ll get ‘em in. all right ,lads!
Bill was centre of attention again, as usual, surrounded by his cronies.
River Dearne never follows a straight course. Meanders, like our Tracy’s mam who’s in a home. Deames supposed to start at Birds Edge, up Penistone wqv. Well, 1 stood at the Edge, But 1 couldn’t see or hear owt.
‘Hidden’, that’s what you said it means ‘Deame.’ Didn’t you Jim?
In Old English. A nd he should know ‘cos he’s been to college. A nd he’s not codding. Gonna and me spent yonks finding the right road what River Dearne starts from. It were like me trying to find summat after the Wife’s cleaned up. According.to Jim, the road we were on were made 6y a lad last century called
‘Blind Jack of Knaresborough for four hundred odd pounds.
Anyroad me and Gonna found the right road latter end of the blazing morning~ It were on a cart track past some rich buggers house. He had a spanking BMW parked outside and 1 Jelt a right one frogging past with Gonna pulling at the ‘leash. 1 felt there were these eyes burning into me, saying
‘What you doing here? You’ve no right to be walking down our drive.’ Scream ing like lhe wife does.
As Bill rambled on I suddenly thought what the grocer-ghost had said:
Now you can you do something for us. Find out who killed your best schoolfriend. ‘
and the wife saying:
Martha knew this dog could give her information on how Lozzy had died.
A wow bit of detective work eh! So all I had to do was get the wife to tell me more of Martha’s dreams. It meant spending more time with the wife, but who am I to gainsay a ghost!
Anyroad once we got past the house all we had watching us then were cows. 1 kept looking for horns but they didn’t have none.
Jim told me to do these walks ‘cos he’s educated. He said I might learn summat. 1 did that. 1 learnt to look where 1 was going. Took me hours to clean the shit of me boots. Any road 1 couldn’t see owt of river. It were really hidden. Jim told us to look for the source. Told us to listen for the sound. 1 told Gonna to do so to. He were more interested int bloody cows and their shit.
Going down hill toward Denby Dale I could hear a gurgling. Like our Scott, poor ‘bairn, when he’s asleep and dreaming. I were walking through an orchard that changed to a road after skirting another posh wooden house. The road was through a forest. The light was different. It were all half light. Like it were coming morning and not near lunch like it were.
Jim told us the Dearne used to be covered in trees and that’s why it were probably hidden. The gurgling got louder till it were a gush like our tap gone wrong.
‘Ducking stool. ‘ A – voice behind me said. I turned round slow. I feared I’d strayed on somebody’s land and gone wrong road. It were an old man with a crook and flat cap.
‘W hat. ‘ I said.
‘Sorry, laddo. Didn’t mean to startle thee. See the name of yon road.
I had a gander. It said “Cuckstool Road.’ ‘AY’
‘Well it were where witches were put on a ducking stool to see if they’d live after being submerged under the Dearne. Didn’t tha know that, {ad’ He said
smiling and sauntered off. .
I think- yon wife’s a witch. ‘
I took Bill to one side to ask about Lozzy. He said
Age makes a difference, like when our posse went too far with that old tree.
The posse was a gang called after U.S. Rappers who took it from cowboy films.
You remember posse found the tree down Lovers Lane, overarching the canal: full of old bedsteads and wheeltrims. Over a fag scratched our names in it, dint we, shinned and slung a rope round a branch overreaching the water.
Remember we had competitions seeing who dare swing furthest without getting wet, and Lozzy were really good at it.
Then fatty Buff had a go. Expected happened, the limb snapped
and he told his mother he’d slipped in a puddle when we’d a ‘drought a week.
Later; some of us, like me and Trace, the wife, courting down the canal, would boast of these cracks. Even then the tree looked sorry for itself, dint it.
A II wrinkly and scabby wounds. Still, some of them, sap’ bleeding all over, hacked their names with ‘LUV’ imbetween or an arrow through a heart.
Then fatty Buff overreached himself with a joyride. Took a collectors Chevvy, down Smithies, dumped and set a light to it. Bugger had it too close!
Bill’s angry now.
Our childhood tree went up.
Lately, me and Trace, take steady strolls by the water find younger couples
carving Lovers hearts in what’s left on it.. ,
Why did everybody I asked about Lozzy ramble on about something else entirely? I was beginning to think that the only one I got a sensible answer from was Grocer-ghost. And that putting all this together was like doing a jigsaw. Only I didn’t know how many pieces there were and what was a comer and what was an edge. I knew little bits of stuff about Lozzy, like I knew little bits of stuff about local history. What I needed was an idea of the big picture.

MEAL IN A BREATHING PLACE

Striding up to Linda’s my head was full. Her eleven year old son, Ben, was playing soccer outside in his Man. United shirt. I waved to him, but it was dusk already and he was too absorbed with his mates.
Linda let me in and dashed upstairs again with the words:
With you in a minute, love.
I looked out of her new window at the moors and remembered how we’d
met. We were both on a writing course. I’d admired her from a distance for weeks. One older gent who didn’t know I was married said ‘Get thee sen in. If she sqys no won’t hurt any.’ So I did. We went for a drink and got really absorbed in conversation, as you do, missed the last bus and stayed the night at hers with a brief call to Mary to say I was staying over at a friends who’d had some bad news and was in a bad state. The conversation continued till three in the morning and ended in me massaging her neck, which led to a kiss. I wrote a series of poems about her and me called ‘The Breathing Place’ and four short stories about the group we went around with called ‘Laced With Bingo’. She doesn’t want me to publish them because she says it’s private.
She’d gone to town as usual. Four courses. Rosties with herbs, chicken drumsticks, and creamed carrots. All to go down with Liebfraumilch. Then she said:
You’v’e seen her again, haven’t you. No.
I know you have. Your usually talkative. A lots been happening.
Seeing ghosts again are we?

Two Female Eighteenth Century Rivals Gain All You Can (Quack Peggy Mock, extract)

Gain All You Can
I heard eighty three year old John Wesley speak today from the mounting steps of The White bear Inn. His step was firm, his appearance vigorous and muscular. A clear, smooth forehead, an aquiline nose, lightest and most piercing eyes, freshness of complexion. His countenance and demeanour was cheerfulness mixed with gravity; an unusual flow of spirits but a mark of tranquillity. In dress, a pattern of neatness and simplicity. A narrow plaited stock, a coat with a small upright collar, no buckles at his knee, no silk or velvet in any part of his apparel and a head as white as snow.
He preached for an hour or so, filled out and varied the basic material with anecdotes and illustrations. Throughout he spoke in plain language. His subject appropriate for this commercial town: gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can. When we gain all we can it must be from honest trades, we must not haggle over prices and usury should not be tolerated. Conspicuous consumption is wastefulness. We gain and save only to give, and when we give we should do so to the poor. Salvation for all is not dependent on good works but must issue from good works as part of our progress.
He who is holy, humble, courteous, mild,
And who, as heav’n’s viceregent strives to prove Himself entitled to the rank he holds,
Deserves our admiration and applause.
What an economist thou wast of time; What method, regularity, and form, Thou shew’dst in ev’ry action of thy life, And all this for the honour of thy God, And the advantage of thy fellow men, without a mercenary view in it,
I cannot but applaud thee for such deeds Admire thy ardour, venerate thy name, And eulogize thee, as the best of men.
Philanthropy
Friend Richard Peaudane has removed his garish dress and thinks to impress me with this. I reminded him of my other stipulation: plainness of manner. He says he has observed John Wesley preaching in the town and would hold him also as another example of neatness and cleanliness. Methodists hold much the same persecuted position in this society as we held in the previous century; prone to preaching so as to change society, a cause we have fallen from, after much of our brethren were persecuted. Though, it must be said they support our Friend William Wilberforce in his fight against slavery, Perhaps Friend Peaudane is correct in following John Wesleys example: A black frock without decoration and a white ruffle, In appearance, at least, he is what I would hope for in a spouse. I then reminded him, that though plain in appearance, the nature of a Quaker is consideration for others. I espoused my belief in the evils of slavery. A commercial man, I was surprised that he also felt the indignity, the horrific notion of one man the slave of another as the basis for a good society was a venal sin. With each conversation and change in ‘ the man, if only cosmetic, I begin to see his fair and just side. This has impressed upon me more than his change of costume.

 

Wild Woman (2)
Unmanned, like a bull bereft of all; a flaccid decoration without use;
at least if thee had what I have thou could be a woman; eunuch hiding your treasure for marriage
and hypocrisy. And leave me with empty decoration; rings without sense,
dresses without purpose.
Go about your business thou say
I want nothing to do with thee now;
yet not a month ago it was all Peggy this,
Peggy that; such are the changes of the seasons.

I cannot give birth to an empty ache;
wet nurse it; teach it its fathers worth;
I cannot tell the ache how we loved,
how we met, how we joyed.

I cannot sit round this mughouse days and months

I must out into the world roll in the smell of Man again
with a jug of ale in one hand
and earning a stony crust
from some wight with a jangling purse.

And forget the bull that was castrated.
Helping Joseph
Joseph Lister is one of my many custom weavers. I shall offer him board in my premises. It will remove my loneliness awhile and further prove to Sarah my will to have her bound to me.
Joseph and his brother James have inherited a four-loom shop at Beaver Hoyle from their uncle, John Lupton. Joseph has acquired a wife, Susannah Bottomley of Wooldale and a son. Susannah is pregnant again. John wishes to make a life separate from his brother James. He is a regular and fastidious workman like his uncle. And John Lupton portrays his nephew as a pattern of industry. As he produces the linen that we may spread it out on the fields to dry, to croft, so he may gather it up and store it in my attendant warehouse. If I cannot help him in his progress then I am the poorer man as my future wife Sarah has taught me.
As I observe Susannah with Joseph, she is constantly curbing his generous nature. A beggar came to our door and asked for shoes and Joseph gave him his best brogues without a thought. Susannah scolded Joseph with the words: We have not enough for our own feet and you give away our best. We must gain and save before we can give! Joseph, smiles and kisses her pregnant stomach. As I presumed a wife becomes more than a companion, but a moral arbiter. A family dispels the disconsolate air. This place of mine does not feel so empty. It only lacks a wife for myself.

Lost to Women
O monster of Reason what have you forgotten: how we wet the drying fields of linen

and Barley where you ground my com
with a jug of mughouse ale
and fresh and naughty manners; this was our rusticating;
you strode a giant amongst my hills and made the river flow.
Now you stride through town cocking a snoop at all you laughed and jollied with before; nothing but a prig made up to look like summat.
But your dear pouch must yearn like a custom weavers shuttle for some
decent to and fro.
I know my threads are breaking without your damp,
snapping like twigs in Autumn,
Arid dry as an empty jug.
 Means not Ends
I went for a walk with Friend Dearman at Dearne Flats. I have decided that this relationship should become more public and thereby confirm the rumours of our companionship.

The River Dearne, though prone to dangerous flooding has its own delights. And The Flats are known for their courting couples and rusticating. A note upon this word: rusticating would once have been frowned upon. After all, what can be gained from grass and trees for they are wasteland. Just as the soul can be desolate and made beautiful, perhaps with change in mood, even the worst excesses of tree, grass and river can be seen to improve the soul.
Still Friend Dearman sees philanthropy towards others, plainness of dress and mildness of manner as ends in themselves. I told him that the only path by which he can show real change is for him to have ideas and manners of his own. Too many Commercial men are taken in by the mechanical nature of change. It is the human heart that must change too. He must no longer see the Dearne as a navigable waterway and more as a stream that gives life to its surroundings. I am not only to be his wife but a companion too.

prosperity

I said to Friend Peaudane, as we walked Dearne Flats by the serpentine river that he has more than proved his worth as a husband. I would gladly accept him in such a position and be willing to bear him children to cement our association. He answered that it is only a beginning and we must both strive for the ends I described to him at the beginning, extravagance in our generosity towards others, both personally and publicly. It is now Friend Peaudane, that wishes me to call him Richard as he shall call me Sarah and that we should wait a time yet till we are married. He has his duty to Joseph and family to fulfill.
Yesterday he was present when Susannah, Joseph’s wife gave birth to their second son. Joseph and his brother James who is now living there too pacing up and down, wanting to drown his sorrows Clearly, since I ventured upon this self improvement my mind has moved to the self improvement of others and I find I like myself. I should be wary of too much pride in what I know of myself New converts are likely to be over vociferous for others conversion. Knowledge is power.

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Two Eighteenth Century Female Rivals (Extract from ‘Quack Peggy Mock’

Beast
 She’s turned you into a beast; a gamboling bear in the market place. Turning at her dry stick this way and that. Dancing to the beat of her words to earn a pittance of her crust.
 I forget myself you are not lonely that is not the reason for marriage; you just want your reputation back. Some wights took it away from you shouting about the town. Well when you have it back I’m waiting awhile till your senses return and we can salt each others meat again.
 She’s a peach your little quaker girl; that glory of red and yellow that has the ripeness of summer sun rising and nothing of the cold sun setting. She’s a globe, new land awaiting your travelled feet upon her shore. You would pluck her, and bite into her softness till the juice of pleasure washed both of you into joy, and she would bite into you, for you would be a peach too and both would joy until as two seeds lain side by side you marvelled at being fruit enough for the others pleasure. But I forget you are quakers and must give over such pleasures.
 Plain is Good
 Friend Richard Peaudane has attended our Meeting once more. His outward appearance has not altered and I fear the worst for my advice. The accused, being himself: has turn’ d the accuser. Openly, he sallied forth in the town and shouted his accusers were thieves. He has told all the town, enlarg’ d, vociferated, made some believe, and some like myself to stand in doubt. He says he has made the tale-bearers look like fools. I told him one pronouncement does not show a changed nature. If he is to attend our meeting again and have words with me he must endeavour to go beyond the artificial changes he is making. I hold out hope that on our next meeting we may be nearer husband and wife.

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Two Fables

 

OLD WIVES TALES

When you wonder why they bother it’s like a scratch. It keeps on coming back and you contort yourself trying to get rid of it. It’s like my wife Ash. Why she stays with me I’ll never get straight. So I asked her mother and her grandmother. They each told me the same tale and I’m still trying to work out what they meant by it.

Her grandmother still lives in the Thirties. She sat me down by the coal fire and said:

Before she met you Ash was safe at your mothers but sad because she could not find a man that treated her right. Till an old woman came to the door one day. The woman was crook-backed and wrinkled. Ash thought she was a gypsy selling pegs and said

”Sony we don’t want … ‘ while dosing the door.

But the woman said nyou may not buy my peg~ but I have an apple here you have not tasted the likes of. ’

‘We get our apples from Asda’

‘There ‘s nothing like as granny apples. my dear. They are succulent. See how it shines. Eve never gave Adam such a one. It will refresh you, give you strength. It is like a kiss from a man you have always wanted ’

And it costs nothing but your smile. ’

Ash smiled, took the apple and bit into it. Instantly she could think of no one but you. she had not noticed you till now. She had fallen into a deep sleep and only your presence would wake her. All people have a disguise you know .

I had the feeling Ash’s grandmother was the old crone. I wanted something clearer. I asked Ash’s mother. She took me into the through kitchen and dining room, sat me down at a pinewood dining chair and said:

Ash lived at mine before she met you. One day an old woman came to the door while I was out. She saw Ash in rags, like as if I was dead.

She said: ‘Poor child what is it you wish for more than anything elsei’

:A decent man who will care for me, support me. who will let me be myself. ’

And the old woman pointed her stick at a tree in the garden. A tree that had sheltered birds for years, that shed blossoms to make the rest of the street envious, that provided apples and conkers for the kids in the neighbourhood and a form and shade for the elderly in summer. It transformed itself into you. Things are not always what they seem.

Again I sensed that the old woman was Ash’s mum.

I want a straight answer not a cryptic clue. I’m no wiser for the asking. It’s just old woman’s prattle, and a scratch that won’t go away.

COAT

“I’m sorry, but I.know only one person who wears a coat like that. My mistake.’ “Stop!’ the glistening eyes said “You are destined for something marvellous, if you would but wait. “

I had no time to wait. I wandered back into my home in the floorboards. Perhaps I was not to get a new coat this summer. All I could see was the discarded coats and skins of my companions. The coats as hard as shells and shiny, the coats as soft as wool and easily blown by the wind.

When was I to get mine? I had been so happy last year when my new coat grew out of my nakedness. It felt good to be so close to something so warm and I felt I belonged, because everybody else Was getting theres.

Now I felt exposed. The light was bright and warm outside while I watched from under the house. I could here the mass activity: scratchings and searchings, clash of mandibles, sucking of probosci, rattle of claws over stone and longed to join them. I had not moulted. I was still dressed for winter.

I decided to try on the discarded coats of others. First I tried the hard shell of a scarab beetle but it was too brittle and cracked whenever I bumped into wood or metal. Next I tried the woolly coats, but I had trouble keeping it together and felt even hotter than I was already.

I felt my eyes heavy as I looked up at the distant floorboards and slipped into dreams of a new coat. When I awoke I felt the floorboards pressing into my skin. I was scrunched up. I had grown too big for under the house. I looked at my hands and was surprised to find two. I also had two feet. I felt my face and I only had two eyes and a single ,nose. I wanted to stand on my feet, instead of going on all fours. Something marvelous had happened. I heard voices above me, coming through the floorboards and understood them.

“Where’s that stupid bastard of a boy?’ And I knew it was me.