Sunday, 26 December 2010

Voyage XX – Chauvinist

‘Hey man – where you been hiding all this time?’
It’s Damian, coming up the stairs as I go past. I don’t have a ready answer and I say ‘I don’t know’ – an answer I’m fast coming to loath. Why don’t I know? Why do all these things happen the way they do and I don’t know why?
‘I don’t think Lucy is that keen on me being...’
‘Forget it man...’ he says jovially. ‘She’s very fond of you – told me herself. Come and join us.’
I’m not at all sure this is a good idea but in the spirit of not wanting to make a fuss, and wondering what she’d said about being fond of me, I follow him through, realising too late that since there seems to be a torrential downpour outside, they’re in the bar. I sit down, warily, across from Lucy, beside Matt, who gives me a jolly double thumbs-up and welcomes me back. I rise to go to the bar, but he pushes me back down and asks what I want to drink. Lucy smiles and says ‘Hello’ in a friendly enough way. What was I expecting? To be ignored? Some sign of regret or embarrassment? Something. Anyway, my discomfort is short-lived because, as Matt reminds us when he gets back with a bottle of champagne, my recent triumph over “The Pork” is a cause for serious celebration, and there’s hearty congratulations and loud re-enactments to be done. The rat pack fume and glare. They are so pissed off. It’s very satisfying.
Eventually we get tired of that and take our drinks up on the deck where the night sky has cleared and everything is shiny and clean and the air is fresh. There is the dark outline of land not far off to port. I can see lights. We get some deck chairs and settle down for the evening. I ‘casually’ end up sitting next to Lucy. The conversation goes on as usual around us – idiotic banter and snatches of songs when Matt gets his guitar out.
‘It’s a beautiful night’ I say, as easily as I can to her. She just nods and I look up again. I feel so tense, waiting...
‘Are you ok?’ I say after a while. She shrugs. ‘Yes’ she says – why wouldn’t she be?
I know there was a small, cool, mature part of me saying ‘Just leave it now’ but a much larger, more insistent part of me needed an answer, was still convinced there had simply been some misunderstanding that I could still put right, if I could say the right thing. ‘The other night...’ I begin. She is silent, dark, unreadable. ‘I just... I just wanted you so much.’
All the ways I had rehearsed this conversation. The word ‘wanted’ I thought sounded mature, passionate, strong, but I knew as soon as I’d spoken – there was a pleading note in my voice and it was wrong.
‘And so you thought you could have me’ she says, still looking up at the sky.
I want to mention her being naked, and being in my room alone with me, giving me those looks, and all the conversations about oral sex and female orgasms. They’re evidence, surely, that she wanted it too, or at least that it was a reasonable assumption. But obviously they weren’t – otherwise we wouldn’t be here, would we. All my rehearsals are wasted, because, in my fantasy, she’s facing me – I’m able to see her face, and, more or less, she wants to sort things out as much as I do. Sometimes she’s tearful and grateful of the chance to express her feelings (which are essentially the same as mine). Other times she firmly but kindly tells me that although she likes me and she’s flattered, she doesn’t feel that way about me. But in none of my scenarios am I quietly pleading with someone who can’t even be bothered look at me when she speaks. I’m not prepared.
I try again ‘I thought, you know, there was something...’
‘What gave you that idea?’ says her silhouette, barely visible now against the night sky.
‘I don’t know, I...’
We sit in silence for a long time. She laughs at things Damian says. I don’t know where to go next with this.
‘You know you’re just so predictable, don’t you?’ she says eventually, quietly, conversationally. ‘Typical man – can’t have what he wants, so he sulks. Why does a man imagine that just because he likes the look of a woman that she must inevitably submit to him, or there must be something wrong with her, hmm? Why do you suppose that is?’
I have nothing to say. I’m glad it’s so dark, because there are tears again now.
‘It’s a cliché I know,’ she continues ‘but it’s true – men really do never grow up – you’re all just little boys crying “Mummy” and demanding sweeties.’ All this said in a whisper whilst “the boys” opposite mess about with the guitar. A fractured rendition of “Hey Jude” covers my disgrace.
I sit for a while in the dark with her there. I want to go but can’t face saying my goodnights whilst so obviously distraught, having to make an excuse. Part of me doesn’t want to believe she just said what she said. Mostly though I take it in, this judgement. We had talked about feminism as if these “Men” who did all this damage were somebody else, not me, and I hated them too, with their sports and their cars and their profits and their weapons, none of which I could relate to, and we were together, Lucy and I, against them. I was a new sort of man, on the women’s side. I knew what a clitoris was and I wasn’t afraid to have a go at using one.
But now apparently I am just another man, just like them.
I control my tears and get up. ‘Just going for a walk’ I mumble, but no one is listening. We all seem really drunk tonight. I look across the water at the string of lights on the coast, the black craggy skyline above, visible only because of a faint glow from beyond. The water’s ripples barely reflect it. Everything is just dark on dark except those lights. I wonder who lives there? I have a very strong sense that it’s time to go. I can’t wait to get off this thing.
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Joe XIII – Sisters

‘The trouble with all that school stuff we were talking about before’ Joe begins, ‘I believe it’s all based on early childhood experiences, and as you pointed out at the beginning, even if you can change how you react later on it can still be there, in your subconscious, affecting everything you do, undermining your confidence. A lot of what Freud said has been discredited since, but I think that part holds true. I don’t envy you.’
He sits, hunched, looking about, I don’t know what’s coming next.
‘All the same’ he says, ‘it doesn’t seem enough, considering what came next. There has to be something else.’
‘Like what?’
‘I can’t tell – some childhood trauma? Something your parents did? Some other family member? Do you see what I’m getting at?’
‘But maybe that’s just how I was’ I shrug. ‘Maybe I was born that way.’
‘What? Thinking you were a useless prat and everything you did was probably wrong? Oh yes, children are born like that all the time.’
‘Maybe it was school then’ I say. ‘I think things were alright before I went to school.’
‘Do you remember anything from before you went to school?’
‘I know we lived on a farm. It was a little place out in the country. I don’t know exactly where. Apparently I was always running down the garden in all weathers with no clothes on. Justine says they used to call me nature boy. I remember there was a big garden. I used to come in freezing, covered in mud and scratches and grazes and bruises but I never complained about it – I just carried on. That’s what they told me. I don’t think anybody remembers much about that time do they?’
‘Just as well sometimes’ he says. He seems sort of angry – I’m not sure what about. I don’t know if I’ve said something wrong. I mean, they weren’t bad parents. Maybe I was just difficult. I don’t know. I don’t miss them at all – I know that. I feel terrible about that. I feel like I should miss them but I don’t. I miss my sisters.
‘Do you want to know about my sisters?’ I say, conversationally.
‘Er... yes, I do actually. Tell me.’ He looks relieved to change the subject. ‘They were quite a bit older than you weren’t they?’
‘My first memories of them they already seemed like adults to me. I suppose they were just teenagers but they seemed so... grown up. And they had all these really exciting friends round and all this amazing music was going on in the next room. They let me stay in with them sometimes if I was quiet. I loved that.’
‘And they helped look after you?’
‘When my dad was at work. I have this memory of the three of us on the sofa and I’m squashed in between them in my pyjamas, like a little puppy or something, and I can feel that fatty bit over Amelia’s hips through the horrible acrylic material she’s got on and I was just fiddling with it and making her giggle. She wasn’t fat – both of them were quite slim, but she was nice and soft too. And she had this really strong smell – I think my head was right up under her arm pit and I was so warm, and it was dark except for the gas fire and I remember thinking “I want to be here for ever”. I think I must have been about four.’
‘So they’d have been, what? In their mid teens?’
‘About that.’
‘Describe them for me.’
This is good. I like talking about my sisters. ‘Well, Justine was the older one, about twelve when I was born. She was quite tall, nearly six foot I think, and she had very straight red hair and this very long, very serious sort of face and you’d think she was really going to give you a hard time and then she’d say something ridiculous and it was just hilarious. She was quite a serious person though. She wanted to go to university but changed her mind. I don’t know why. She was the one that looked after me most. Mum used to say she was the one that could be trusted. I think a lot of people were a bit scared of her but she was always good with me.
And then with Amelia, the younger one, she had this long dark hair, like mum, and really lovely dark eyes. I loved her eyes – they were almost black sometimes, the irises. I used to love watching her getting ready to go out, putting on her make-up and getting dressed. She was always going out and getting into trouble, having to phone dad to come and fetch her in the middle of the night. But she did look after me sometimes too. Nothing bad ever happened.’
‘What happened when they left home?’
‘Oh god, that was terrible. I was about ten I think when Amelia got married, and then Justine moved out soon after. It was just horrible. Mum said I made a terrible fuss about it. They were trying to get me to cheer up for ages.’
‘How did they do that, cheer you up I mean?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. They just, you know, told me to go out more, make some proper friends my own age...’
‘Which you did?’
‘Not really. I don’t really remember. It doesn’t matter...’
I can feel him watching me. I focus hard on the legs of the table – curved, shiny.
‘Just take it easy Gabriel’ he says. Joe has that worried look on his face again. I wish he wouldn’t. He sits and looks at me for quite a while.
‘Do you want to go on?’ he says quietly.
‘I don’t know’ I say. And I don’t. I don’t know anything. He lets me go.
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Monday, 20 December 2010

Journey XIV – Spirit journey

I have just a few things to tell about the last part of the journey. The weather was bright and the path was broad and rutted, suggesting that something with wheels travelled this way. When I’d started out the trees had still been leafless and the spring sunshine lit the woodland floor intensely, illuminating the cushions of moss and piles of leaves and the elegant nodding flowers that emerged through them, sometimes in their thousands. Later on I came across massive ruins half hidden among the trees and ferns and I once spent the night in the roofless shell of a vast chamber, under a monstrous tree that had rooted into the wall. I didn’t get much sleep because there was too much murmuring and movement in the stones. It was quieter out under the sky.
I never did tell the others what I’d seen on my way to the retreat. I wasn’t even sure it had really happened. One spring day Jim had taken a party outside around the wall on one of his ‘nature rambles’. I went along as well, for a laugh. He admitted himself that he wasn’t very knowledgeable about plants and animals, but found it fascinating and wanted to pass on some of the observations he’d made over the seasons. He needn’t have bothered. Half the party had gone back before we were even a hundred yards from the main gate and we hadn’t even begun to descend the rocky path down into the trees. The other half were too scared to concentrate. What they imagined was down there I never really discovered. Jim was mystified as well, although he too had been warned of the dangers lurking ‘out there’. He’d never witnessed anything conclusive but swore nevertheless that ‘things’ lived out there. Some days the place was swarming with life and you could hardly take a step without crushing something. Other times, under apparently identical conditions, there was nothing – nothing but the sense of being accompanied by something powerful and unfriendly as he put it. I asked if he believed in God. He said he used to. I mentioned what Joe had told me about the lost spirits and he said he thought that sounded plausible. Some of those bright, silent days, the place had felt very ‘busy’ nonetheless. There was a ‘clamour’ to it we couldn’t explain.
We never really became close, Jim and I. He liked to tell you things, often at great length and mostly you just had to listen and as time went on I got a little tired of that. He was a bit too much like my dad to be honest so in the end I was glad to get away.
And so I walked. The high broadleaf forest covered itself in leaves and then gave way to a flatter landscape of meadows and streams and marshes.

My final encounter with the lost spirits happened a couple of months later. I’d been walking solidly, doggedly determined to arrive at wherever it was. Every day I awoke with the sun, made my coffee, thought a little of Miranda and packed my things together. Then I started walking and I didn’t stop until it was getting dark. That’s how it was. It had been maybe eight years since my death, or more perhaps. Often it seemed like much more. I could barely picture what life had been like.
All around me the land became arid and the heat more intense. The plants were brittle and grey and the air smelt of lavender and pine. I was really very content.
I came across more settlements along the way, as Miranda had told me I would. Mostly they were quiet, gentle communities made up of a few houses or shacks in various styles and with or without gardens or fields. Mostly people were friendly and generous and offered a place to sleep and food if it was available. Some places were lively with music or brightly coloured ornaments and plants. Other places were rather serious and inward in temperament. I usually stayed for just a single night, used the shower, perhaps did some chores and treated myself to a meal but I had no wish for luxury or company. In any case I’d never felt entirely alone even in the most deserted spots. The spirits were everywhere. Some evenings as the sky turned purple I could feel them resting in the stones and the trees around me, aware of my passing but profoundly unmoved by it.
I found a rocky place surrounded by some extraordinary trees with thick grey trunks that branched only at the top, making an impenetrable dome of spikes way above my head. The leaves were like thick grey claws. I found a place where a rock had fallen against the bark and there was blood leaking away, red and sticky. I sat among them for the night and looked across a vast stony plain at the mountains in the distance.

In another place, I found what appeared to be a fortified town, deserted and still. Its thick white walls enclosed a cluster of low box-like dwellings, all built against one another without any streets or pathways in between. In one I found an iron stove, in another, a small ceramic pot. I climbed up through a square opening in one of the ceilings and walked across the flat roofs. The place felt like it had been deserted hundreds of years ago, perhaps thousands. And yet the walls and floors were not silent. All night I could hear them talking among themselves and I had to leave in the dark and lie down nearby in the open until it got light.

Finally there was a place where I sat beside a cool clear pool under some palm trees and took all my clothes off to swim. The spirits there were more tranquil and when they came to join me I sensed they simply wanted to pass the time. I never saw them properly – just from the corner of my eye I would sense a movement and turn but there’d be nothing to see. That seemed to amuse them. They told me things about the world they had come from, the things they remembered. Their memories were mostly of hardship and brutality but they told me about it without any real bitterness or recrimination. It was too long ago. That was just how it had been for them at that time. It was nobody’s fault. I told them what I could remember about the world I’d come from and that kept them amused for a time but none of them seemed to envy me. As I lay there under the night sky I could hear them gossiping to each other about me, patronisingly agreeing that I had a lot to learn about life. By morning they were silent again and I moved on. 
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Friday, 17 December 2010

Joe XII – The moral majority

‘I hear there’s been some drama’ he says as I sit down.
‘Nothing much’ I say. ‘Why don’t you tell everyone in advance, about us not being able to smack each other?’
‘It’s funnier’ he says ‘watching people like Harry make berks of themselves.’
‘Does it happen a lot?’
‘Not as much as you’d think actually. Death usually has a calming effect on people – makes them more tolerant and considerate.’
‘So... why not Harry?’
‘He’s a psycho’ he says jauntily and laughs a little.
‘So... how does it work?’
‘How does what work?’
‘The non-violence. Is it like that marshal arts thing where you don’t hit people, you just use their weight to knock them down? Something like that?’
I shake my head and shrug. It sounds about right.
‘Perhaps. But it’s more complicated than that. The way I had it explained to me... Well, ok, you know, back in the world there’s physical forces – momentum and friction and magnetism and such. Physics stuff?’
I nod doubtfully. I know absolutely nothing about physics.
‘Well here it’s more like morality is a force, makes things happen. That’s not quite right... Let me see... It’s like, in life, if you told someone that what they were doing was simply wrong, well saying that might make you feel better, but it would have no intrinsic power to change their behaviour. Here it does.’
I look blankly at him.
‘Look it’s not like divine intervention. It’s more like, here, the way people feel things should be, deep down, is how things are. For example, a small minority might think it would be ok to attack someone they hate. I mean – with me for example, there’s probably going to be a few violent homophobes about, but on the other hand there’ll be some others who really believe in personal freedom. Most people though, they might not really approve of me, but they wouldn’t want to see me get hurt. So I’m safe. Does that make sense?’
I can’t really imagine how that could work, but then I can’t really imagine how words and pictures get from the studio to my TV set at home. It hasn’t stopped Harry and the others making me miserable anyway. Maybe they all think it’s what I deserve.
‘No’ he continues, ‘I’m happy to report I’ve never been on a boat, or heard of a boat even, where it was ok to attack other people unless they actually wanted to be attacked. I have to say it gives me a lot of hope for humanity.’
‘Is there a no sex rule too?’ I ask as casually as possible. I want to know if Lucy wouldn’t do it with me because there’s a rule. That would be good news.
‘Not that I’ve come across’ he says, a little too gleefully. ‘You might have trouble doing it in the forward lounge in front of everyone, but as long as you keep it discrete it seems you can do what you like to whoever likes it. It doesn’t seem to be possible to get very drunk here though, except for on special occasions, which is interesting. It’s fascinating actually. It’s not like this everywhere though I should warn you’ he adds. ‘You’ll need to watch out once we disembark. On the boat we’re all thrown together willy-nilly. Extremes tend to cancel. Once you’re on land it’s a very different state of affairs. People have chosen where they want to be. Places develop a very definite mood, a distinct personality... Consider too that some of the people will have been there for a very long time indeed. Some of them will have died hundreds of years ago on the other side of the world...’
He anticipates a reaction from me but I have to disappoint him. This occurred to me a while back and I’m not in the mood to act all astonished. ‘I do understand that’ I say and he is disappointed and I’m sorry.
‘Well anyway’ he says, ‘they don’t always appreciate a lot of twentieth century westerners coming along, acting like they run the place....’
He looks more closely at me, trying to get a reaction. It’s all I can do not to cry.
‘Well’ he says, sighing, ‘anyway, you’ll need to be very careful where you end up.’

Afterwards I go up into the bows and look at the water. It’s getting dark. The sun is just a bright spot in the distance. To port I see the silhouette of a strange continent. I can’t stand it here on the boat any longer but I don’t want to go there either. And I don’t want to go home. I can’t face going back. What am I going to do? I look down at the water. I look around the deck. There’s nobody else up here. Nobody would miss me, except maybe Joe. He might be upset. I wish Justine was here.
The breeze is warm and fragrant from the land. The water chops idly below. I could just drop. I could just drift on the current forever. I might feel the way I do now forever but at least I wouldn’t be adding to it.
I got a beautiful woman, naked, into my bed and she still didn’t want me. I told Harry and the others, out loud, to stuff their tedious ideas about how I should live and I still don’t feel any better.
I don’t know why I’m like this. All I know is I don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. And nothing that’s happened here makes me think that things will be any different in the future, either here in the afterlife or in my next life. This is just how I am, wrong, forever and ever amen.
Anyway, I think it must be about dinner time.
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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Voyage XIX – Non-violence

I spent the next I-don’t-know-how-long in my bunk, breathing the smell of her body out of my pillow. All I could think was how I could have done things differently – going over and over everything that had happened. Sometimes I thought maybe I’d been too pushy. Then other times I thought I should have been more pushy, less hesitant, more manly. What had she said about a woman above all wanting a man who felt good about himself? I certainly wasn’t that. I went over all the conversations we’d had about sex and women, and I remembered how she’d looked at me sometimes (but didn’t she look at other men that way too?), and offered to come to my cabin and strip off for me (but wasn’t that all in the name of art?) and how later I’d gone to try to find out what was wrong and she’d dismissed me (but hadn’t I just been a silly little boy, again?).
And why would someone like her (a goddess, frankly) want someone like me anyhow, so weedy and awkward and pathetic and how could I have been so stupid to have, even for a moment...? The memory is just too pitiful, not least because I'm filled to a hard, purple bursting point with the image of her extraordinary naked body on my bed. My balls ache with the memory of it.
The pictures are there still. I can’t destroy them. I thought of throwing them in the sea, but I can’t. Instead I fix them (my craftsman brain, still there, in spite of everything, thinking practically) and roll them up and put them away.
I sleep as much as possible, and wake up to a second or two of peace before the memory collapses in on me anew and forces me to go over it all again. Not having to eat or drink or go to the loo means I have no distractions. I don’t seem to have been missed either. I suppose everyone knows by now too. I can’t face them.
But I can’t just stay in here forever. I wait until it’s dark and everyone has settled down for the night and I go up on deck to feel the fresh air on my face. Even then I can’t help fantasising that Lucy will be up there, unhappy, and I will go and talk to her. She’ll tell me that in fact, for all her bravado, she was shy and needed more time, that she wasn’t ready, and can I be patient?
Of course I can.
But there is no one up there.

The next morning Joe comes and knocks on the door and asks if I am ok. I say come in and he stands awkwardly in the door. ‘You heard what happened I suppose’ I say, turning away. I feel ashamed of myself now.
‘Everybody did’ he says, smiling. ‘I wouldn’t take it too seriously if I were you.’ But I do, I think. This was it, I think, my one chance. I really can’t imagine ever meeting a woman like her ever again, in any life or after life. She was it.
‘From what I gather you handled it rather well. I thought you’d be cock-a-hoop.’
I’m confused – what has she said? Maybe she’s playing a game with me? I did ok? Is there hope?
‘Harry is, if anything, even surlier than before,’ he continues, ‘and Jason says Liz is in tears most of the time... well, that’s confidential. So...’
Why’s he talking about Harry? Oh. I get it. I’d forgotten about all that. The memory makes me smile a little. It gives me a moment to come up for air. ‘Has Lucy said anything?’
‘Lucy?’ He looks blankly at me for a moment ‘Oh that tall, dark, well-endowed lass. No, why?’
I flinch at the description.
‘Never mind. Doesn’t matter.’ I turn away again.
‘You fancy her?’ he says with a sly grin. ‘Well who wouldn’t? I’m only about twenty percent straight and I can see it. Have you spoken to her?’
‘A bit’ I say, evasively.
‘Anyway, are you coming along later?’
I think about it and realise I really need to. ‘Yes’ I say. ‘I’ll see you later.’

Time is an odd thing here. There are no clocks. Hours and days just wander about casually. Back in life everybody knew – if you were having a shit time it went on interminably – a good day was over before you knew it. Here I suspect it’s a bit the other way, which is nice, but it’s hard to tell, looking back, how long you’ve been doing anything. You can count elephants to sixty, a hundred-and-twenty, three hundred, but sooner or later you get muddled and don’t know where you’ve got to. I’ve even tried keeping track on paper but I still get lost. Time is absolutely relative here. “Sooner or later” is about as close as you’ll get to describing it. And yet, somehow, I always know when it’s early afternoon or after midnight, or time to go see Joe for example.
He doesn’t know about me and Lucy. That probably means no one knows. He’d know if anyone knew surely? Maybe not. The guides keep themselves quite separate from the rest of us. I’m sure she must have told Damian and Matt. They probably think it’s hysterical. What was I thinking? I look at myself in the mirror on the back of the door. I’m just a stupid child. She’s a woman. It occurs to me that she doesn’t look very old – twenty-two maybe? I don’t know how old she is really. This revives my optimistic ‘I’m actually a virgin and need you to be gentle with me’ fantasy, although it’s not very convincing. She doesn’t seem like a virgin. That’s what I liked about her.

I feel hungry. There’s a small serving hatch near the library so I won’t have to go through the bar. I put on a dressing gown and open the door and Harry is there, just on his way past.
‘I wondered when you’d show your face again’ he says coming too close too quickly. He jams his hand across the door, blocking my way. I look beyond. Several other travellers have stopped to see what will happen. They look concerned, not entertained.
In retrospect I guess a part of me was scared – I felt faint afterwards, but mainly I just felt pissed off. I really couldn’t be bothered with this, and I guess it showed in my face. Even so, I couldn’t ignore the simple fact of his sheer physical size. I knew you couldn’t die here, but I didn’t want to get hurt. I didn’t want to shout for help either, so I just stood there. He grinned at me, too close, too heavy, too nasty. ‘And what are you going to do now, eh?’ he said in my face. I could feel his hot breath on my neck, his eyelids on my cheek. It was revolting. I was horribly aware that I had nothing on under the robe, and that it was falling open. I pushed a little with my body, turning my head away, not really expecting any result. He moved more firmly to block me and push me back but in the process began to lose his balance. He moved his arm a little to steady himself, and I stepped through, over his leg as he heaved himself toward me in an effort to pin me against the doorframe with his body. It didn’t work but as I slipped past he took a swing at me with his free hand.
It was very odd. I felt his hand connect but it was as if my jaw had become marble and his fist was a rubber ball. The force threw him across the passageway onto his back. I was standing there unscathed and he was lying there winded. We all stood around for a while wondering what had just happened. Harry was getting up, swearing under his breath, rearranging his tie. He went to hit me again.
‘You can’t do that here’ said a voice behind me. It was Angie again.
‘Who’s going to fucking stop me?’ he said, furious, spluttering his words, his face red, fit to pop.
‘Nobody’s going to stop you. It’s just not physically possible on the boat. No violence.’
‘Who fucking says?’ he cried as if this is the greatest infringement of his civil liberties imaginable.
She shrugged. ‘Just how it is’ she said blandly. ‘Are you ok Gabriel?’
‘Yes’ I said. ‘I’m fine.’ I didn’t want to gloat but we were all looking much jollier. I went back inside and put some clothes on.

Well it was a welcome diversion anyway, and I had a good half hour of chuckling to myself before my thoughts about Lucy came back to bother me. By then it was time to go and see Joe again.
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A life backwards

It's in the nature of blogs of course that you come across the latest postings first (or you find yourself in the middle.) Normally it doesn't matter but if you want to read my novel in order, the first installment is as you'd expect, the oldest posting.
Thanks for your patience.