Tuesday, 5 November 2019

A load of holes and a kite.

She is .........

Trigodonas is an old stone farm sitting at 600 meters above the valley of the Bonnet in S.W. France. 

Although it sounds like something from the Lord of Rings trilogy, it is in fact the home of Mr and Mrs Kyte from Blackburn Lancashire, who bought it on impulse one summer during a cycling holiday; they own a tandem. J

im and Alice Kyte have both read The Lord of The Rings; Jim listened as his first wife read it to him in a tent on The Isle of Barra in N.W. Scotland whilst driving rain confined them to canvas for five days; long before their eventually frustrating marriage. And Alice listened as Jim read it to her during their honeymoon on la Isla de Mujeres in Mexico. 

Theo Lemare, a retired sheep farmer of no fixed abode, noticed that the farmhouse was closed up autumn/winter/spring so being good with locks, let himself in; being good with plants he started a small marijuana patch under the apple trees in the orchard that lies at the back of the property and though it was not his intention to stay there during the summer, one night he fell asleep after a long day smoking and woke to find the house full of the upset shapes of the Kytes and the local Gendarmerie.

Once Alice and Jim’s outrage had subsided a little, Jim – in a move that surprised his wife – declined to press charges and once the Gendarmes had taken their begrudging leave asked Alice to make some coffee and invited Theo to sit opposite him at the kitchen table.

“We have a lot in common”, he began in a remarkably fluent French for someone from a Blackburn comprehensive, “especially our names”.

Despite his excellent knowledge of the language of Albion – Theo Lemare had worked for several summers in a Pub in Glastonbury – the young man was struggling to follow Jim. Luckily, Alice arrived with the coffee and explained.

“Mr Kyte is a character on The Beatles Sargeant Pepper album, so people are always making fun of us by singing. The fact that we come from Blackburn Lancashire doesn’t help either; John and Paul wrote about there being 4000 Holes there” she said.

“For the benefit of Mr Kyte, there will be a farm he bought in SW France. The place is cold and very old, 4000 holes without a doubt, not a chance. Of repair, or care or renting out, The Kyte’s folly will crumble slowly. And tonight Mrs Kyte is paying the bill!”Jim sang in his best Liverpudlian accent to clarify the point.

Theo Lemare knew more than most about the Beatles - he was an obsessive collector and had an original copy of the Sgt Pepper album, complete with illustrated guide - so he was following the conversation clearly now and even joined in on the final “paying the bill!”

“And you”, she continued, “ being very tall, must get so annoyed with people pointing out that – Theo, t’es haut!” Alice’s French was also exceptional for someone raised on Black Pudding and Lancashire Hot Pot, she knew both that haut meanthigh and that the French grammatical formTu es was often pronouncedT’es.

Theo sighed, this was a joke he bore the brunt of EVERY day of his life.

“You’re coffee is very good”, he said in way of a apology for having squatted The Kyte’s farmhouse.

“For an Englishwoman?” Alice asked.

“I didn’t mean that”, Theo spluttered.

“It’s ok”, added Jim, “she’s pulling your leg”. 

Theo looked at his legs, “They don’t need stretching any more”. 

And everyone laughed. 

The tension that had been hovering around them dissipated like the early morning mists for which the Vallley of the Bonnet was famous, and cake appeared alongside the coffee with a suddenness that suggested that either Alice or Jim were serial bakers. Theo went to the fridge, apologising as he did so – he felt, rightly, this was no longer his home – and produced a plate of cheese the like of which no one in Blackburn had ever seen, took a baguette from his shopping bag and a bottle of wine from the shelf over the sink.

“Bon appetit!” they chorused.

“Now,” began Jim, his tone suddenly becoming formal. “ I noticed, when we arrived, some interesting plants growing in the Orchard.”

“Ah”, replied Theo.

“I’m hoping the Gendarmes didn’t”, Jim continued.

“Is this conversation heading where I think it is?” Alice asked looking at her husband.

Jim smiled as he replied. “Yes,” he said, “Is that ok?”

“It’s perfect she replied” and stood up. “I’ll go and pick some.”

“You see,” continued Jim, “we have never used the stuff and now that the shock is over we are quite taken that we own both a farm house AND a dope plantation in the SW of France and we need someone to look after both the property and the plants. We have an old caravan in the garden back home, it’s not in great shape but you could paint it up, add a terrace and make it pretty cosy. We can’t pay you but you can use the house in the winter, or if the weather is too inclement.”

Theo looked at him.

Jane came in and placed some heavy flower buds on the table between them.

Jim looked back and smiled.

And then they all started singing.

“Picture yourself in a farm in the country, with three crazy people and marshmallow skies. Somebody asks you, they ask you quite seriously, the people from Albion Isle.”

Theo raised his glass,“All you need is Love.”

Alice and Jim raised their’s, “Ob-la-dit, Oh t’as dit!!”

And then they rolled a joint.

 formerly published in The Archives.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

A Knee, an old van and pancakes.

Burning down the ....

Sunlight bounces off the glass of the open window and reflects on the surface of the mirror as Jack leans towards it; he is looking at the wrinkles around his eyes.

The sunlight makes them appear deeper; at least deeper than he remembers.  He no longer trusts his memory anymore of course, not for things yesterday in any case, though he still knows all the words of The Lord’s Prayer.

He used to recite it every Sunday in the church, back when with his sister Lottie he sat on the wooden bench at the back of the balcony whilst their parents prayed.

It has been a long time since he sat in a church; even longer for Lottie whose funeral marked the last time that they were both there together; his memory of that day was fading too.

“I feel old.” His sigh is audible and his daughter laughs.

“You’re doing it again. It’s your new habit.”

They had been running together earlier, through the forest before breakfast and now his knee was stiffening. He had tried to hide it from her but she had seen him limping; he had stopped on the hill home.

“I’m going to walk from here,” he said. “You go on ahead, I’ll see you there.”

But she had stopped too and walked alongside him and that had made him realise exactly how old he was; three score years and ten.

“Time to bow out then”, he too is smiling now.

“You look younger when you smile. You should do it more often”, she  is almost singing as she says it.

“You ALWAYS look young”, and he sighs again.


They are in the bathroom; Jack is standing by the mirror, his daughter is sitting on the edge of the toilet; the window is open and bird song from the street as well as sunshine finds its way inside.

The flat is small, on the second floor above the newsagent down the street from the station; Jack moved here two years ago, stepping down from the train that had brought him from the city with only his memories and an old suitcase that contained a few clothes, his swimming stuff and a book.

He hadn’t known at the time that there was a canal at the other end of the street from the railway, nor that the canal lead through back streets to the river’s edge; he had only hoped that there would still be an opportunity to swim every summer.

When he swum his knee felt better, it was an illusion probably but if he could he would choose to reincarnate as a fish. 

Each time Daisy visited and Jack was not at the flat she knew to look by the river; if it was winter or autumn he would be sitting on the bench by the oak tree waiting, if it were spring or summer she would find his clothes piled carelessly on the roots and she would sit and wait for him to return; from downstream in the spring, from up stream once the summer heat had lowered the waters.

She had never thought to question why but once he had told her: “Mum was the same.” She was none the wiser.


Daisy’s mum had been a dancer; Paris, Berlin, Budapest, she stopped when daisy was born.

“No regrets,” she had often said, “Just a few kilos more.”

That had become the name of the tea and cake-shop her and Jack had opened shortly after – A Few Kilos More. Even then they had been European.

The cake shop had kept them alive until the first of the riots when it was burnt down by angry racists, thereafter they travelled together in the old van from which they sold crepes to anyone that would have one.

There were many that did.

formerly published in The Archives.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

A tree, the wind and a car.


Outside the shack the winds are raging ; the winds are distant so the sounds of the wind are muffled, rain is on it’s way.

Inside the shack a fire is burning in the stove, it is warm and the muffled distant sounds are comforting ; the shack has doubled windows so the sounds are deceptive.

A tree stands outside the shack ; the tree is old and the wind is troubling her, she is thinking of falling. If she does she will destroy the shack.

Inside the shack, the man sleeping in the single bed near the stove where the fire is warming, is unaware of most of this ; the muffled sounds of the raging wind reach the edge of his dreaming, the edgy creaks of the old tree do not.

Lucky for him that today is not the day that the tree will fall, something resolute arrises from deep within her roots and she decides to resist the onslaught and show the wind that she is an equal.

The tree is an oak.

The man's dreams are distant, also muffled and in someways resistant. 

She is there of course and she would resist if this was not the man’s dream ; her own dreams touch neither this shack or this bed.

But she can hear the wind.

She is sitting in her car at the side of a small road that leads somewhere else but the motor is no longer running ; she is too frightened by the storm to continue. 

She tries to use her mobile phone to speak to someone but there is no signal and in her confusion and fear she has forgotten who it was.

She can see in the east the dark clouds where the rain is waiting. This rain will be violent and take the lives of at least eight people.

She will not be among the eight but she will know one of them, though the connection is distant.

And fading.

And asleep.

In the west.

formerly published in The Archives.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Marlou the Mutt

me and my......


He’s a dog.

Amazing eyes, like marbles.

He’s lying on his side, licking my wife’s toes.

It’s probably the sweat, but it’s worryingly erotic.

Marlou is Laurent’s dog.

Or Celine’s.

One of them’s.

Together they have a stall in this market of old and sometimes forgotten surprises ; i have just bought and empty book waiting to be filled.

They gave me a special price; we know each other, i have visited their house, worked with them and lent them DVDs.

They gave me coffee.

« Do you know what Malou means? »

It is Laurent and he is asking me; clearly i don’t.

« It’s Parisian slang, it means voyou ».

I know what voyou means, i have lived in France almost as long as anywhere else.

Including Paris.

« But originally it was slang for Prox"

That’s a word i don’t know, it hasn’t come up in conversation before; i ask him to repeat it.

« Prox"

I try to repeat it myself.

« It’s a difficult word to pronounce ».Laurent explains.

« And it might be difficult to use day to day », he adds. « It means pimp »

He doesn’t say pimp though as his English is not quite there, he explains the nature of the service instead.

formerly published in The Archives.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

One morning in the city.

Now is the time to ........

I don’t know him very well, but he is now standing in the toilet with me whilst i sit.

He’s looking for his washbag , i’m not – my needs are more basic.

I always sit when i pee.

He doesn’t seem bothered, nor do i.

I guess its age ; we share a few laps around the block.

Apart from this i don’t really understand him.

His past is a complex jumble that at times puts him on the west coast of Canada, in a Roman cellar with nuns, at the U.N. sometimes, taking photographs in Russia for environmental agencies unnamed and in rehab somewhere in South Africa.

Right now he’s in the toilet with me, and i with him.

He’s my new friend.

But like i said – i don’t know him very well.

Until now.

formerly published in The Archives.

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