Monthly Archives: February 2012

Freak. A short story.

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Note from the author….

I know some people will have read this story before, however some of you won`t so here goes………

When I woke up that day it was a lovely sunny morning.  I was happy because I had arranged to meet up with one of my friends from an internet dating site called `Plenty more Loving`, I was going to drive to his house and we had decided to share lunch together.  He and I had been mailing and talking on the telephone for six months and even though I understood that a blind date wasn`t necessarily recommended by the site, I felt we knew one another well enough by now for there to be a comfortable meeting between the two of us.  He felt familiar to me, like an old pair of slippers and he hadn`t given me even the slightest hint of any sexual frisson between the two of us which suited me fine.   I admit I was a little apprehensive as my date had already explained that he was something of a recluse but other than that, it felt good, I was excited.

I put on some makeup and had a spray of my favourite perfume before I left home.

His name was Jonathon and I liked him.  His profile on the dating site described him as a thoughtful and thought-provoking, clever individual.  I love clever men.  His photograph on the dating site portrayed a handsome fellow in his mid fifties, quite tall with a silver head of hair and a close cropped white beard.  He was dapper, witty in a surreal sort of a way, his humour was sometimes hard to get and he told me that for a long time, he had studied psychology.  He often sent me links to poetry, plays and film that he had enjoyed and we had shared many an internet conversation on all kinds of interesting topics.   I had a close female friend called Maggie, herself a trained psychotherapist and when we talked about Jonathon she had said that in her view, all psychologists are completely barking mad, however, we had laughed at her comment at the time.  Little did I know what awaited me later on that day.

I suppose it might not have been so bad had Jonathon not sent me a text me a few minutes before I set off saying, `I`ve just put mother in the basement`.  I found this a trifle disconcerting but hurriedly putting my mobile away, I assumed he was attempting to be funny.

It was an hour to drive to where he lived, through some pretty countryside.  I had packed a bag of lunch goodies to take with me, cheese, olives, hard boiled eggs, some salami, fresh fruit….  damn!  I had forgotten the crusty bread.  I had intended stopping on the way, to buy some but now it was all motorway.  Later I was to realise that forgetting the bread was definitely the best thing I could have done but I wasn`t to know this yet.   Maybe I was just beginning to register my disquiet on some deep level in my brain.

When I arrived at Jon`s house, I gave the front door a quiet knock.  It was an unassuming house set the middle of a row of terraces in a provincial market town.  The door opened and just a face appeared, Jon`s face, peering at me from behind the door.   He was wearing a woolly beanie hat and he kept the rest of his body concealed, he didn`t look at all like his photograph, not nearly as handsome or as young.  He gazed down at me with a deadpan expression on his face and said in a low voice, `You`d better come in`.

Now I have a sense of humour and I love film, I knew this line was pinched directly from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.   I thought, `Is he for real?  Is he trying to be funny or does he just not realise what he`s saying?`   Anyway I let it go and I was ushered straight into a dark sitting room.  A very dark sitting room.  Everywhere was dark green or dark brown.

There was a dark green three piece suite, dark green carpet and at the windows, dark brown drapes which were pulled almost shut, keeping the daylight out of the room.   I began to feel slightly uncomfortable.

I handed the bag of lunch goodies to Jonathon and he took them into the kitchen.

He made a peculiar comment that he had always found fruit to be obscene but at least he was smiling when he said it.  He returned with a steaming cup of tea for me.  He had taken off his beanie hat and to my surprise, was completely bald.  Retrospectively I realise that he could have spiked my tea but in the event, I sat and sipped at the drink in the gloom and that`s where it all started to get really weird.

Jonathon began pacing, up and down, up and down, he was clearly flushed and sweating and I noticed that he had both hands gripped into tight fists.  I could see his knuckles were white.  I said to him, `You seem nervous, Jon, why don`t you sit down?  If my visit gets too much for you, well then I`ll leave.`   You may find this odd but I`m a counsellor and have been in many `odd` situations.  Anyway, he seemed quite relieved and sank into a chair in the far corner of the room.   I carried on chatting, attempting to put him at ease.

`I know you are a bit reclusive so my visit must be quite a big deal for you?`

`Yes it certainly is`, he said, `you are my very first visitor here.`

‘Oh really, so you haven`t lived here for very long?`

`Oh no, I`ve lived here all my life`, Jonathon replied.

I felt a distinct prickling sensation on the backs of my hands.

`What, you mean to tell me that you’ve had no other visitors except me, all your life?`  I asked incredulously.

`Yes, that’s right.  Apart from the meter man you`re the only one.`

I attempted to divert the rather strange conversation by deciding to comment on the furniture which was mostly from the thirties.   My eyes settled on a large carved box up on a high shelf and when I asked about it, Jonathon informed me that the box contained the ashes of his old dog, now deceased.  

Later, when I recounted the whole tale to my friend Marcus, he said, `and did you say,  “My, that must have been a very large dog, the box is four foot by three!`  He was trying to make light of the tale and we had laughed back then but I still shudder every time I recollect the experience of my  date.

In an effort to make the situation a bit more normal, I talked some more to Jon` about my career as a counsellor which for some reason, he found hilarious.  He was chuckling away one minute, muttering, `Oh yes, that`s food and water to me, food and water….` and the next minute, assuming the deadpan expression again.  Suddenly and quite out of the blue he turned to face me and asked,

`Do you feel a presence in this house?`

I was beginning to feel extremely anxious by now, so I lied and said,

`I don`t feel any bad vibe`s here whatsoever Jon, nothing at all.  Why do you ask?` inwardly I was thinking,  `I`ve got to get out, I`ve got to get out!`

Jonathon replied in a grave tone of voice,

`Fifteen years ago, I had to have this house cleansed.  A woman who was a wicca came here and went through all the rooms, cleansing them.  She went upstairs to cleanse the bedrooms, `

`So, I`m not your first visitor then,`  I immediately thought.

Jonathon was looking intently at me now.

`… and while she was upstairs, I suddenly heard an almighty thud and she came rushing downstairs with her nose all bloodied …`

My heart was racing.   I wanted to get out!

`and then what happened?`  I asked, trying to conceal the fact that I could scarcely breathe.  Jonathon delivered the information slowly.

`Well then she told me that a negative energy force had lifted her bodily into the air about three feet up and hurled her against the bedroom wall.  She said that there was an incredible amount of negative energy in the house,`

`Yes?` I whispered, barely moving a muscle on her face lest I flinch.

`and that the source of the negative energy`, continued Jonathon, staring intently at my pale, damp face,

`was me`.

`Oh Christ`, I thought, `I`ve got to get out of here.  But how?`

And then, oh thank you God, I remembered the bread.

I sparked into life, a quick and happy smile upon my face,

`Jonathon, do you think we could eat lunch, I am starving!`

In reality I was extremely scared but I couldn’t let him see that.  Jonathon replied gloomily, yes of course we could and then my clever exit strategy came into play.

`You know what – I`ve forgotten the bread.  Do you suppose I could ask you to pop out and get some?`

Reluctantly, he agreed to go out to the corner shop for a loaf.  I was so relieved and yet the ordeal was not yet over because when he left the room, he pulled the door to with such a resounding click, I thought,

`Oh Jesus, he`s locked me in!`

I stood up and tried the handle.  Thank God, the door was not locked.  Through the drawn curtains, I watched Jonathon`s figure reach the end of the road and his bald head bob around the corner and out of view.  I briefly tussled with my conscience about how ill-mannered it would seem if I just scarpered and made my escape, about how hurt he might feel, how freaky he might feel, to come back and find me gone.

Dismissing all of these thoughts and listening to my inner alarm bells which by now were positively clanging inside my head, I picked up my coat and bag and quickly let myself out of that dreary, gloomy house.  I hot-footed it straight to my car and by the time I got the keys in the ignition I was shaking so much, I had to light a cigarette to try and gather my nerves.

I imagined Jonathon returning to the house, finding it like the Marie Celeste, just an empty teacup, the fragrance of Yvresse and something like pure fear, hanging in the air.

I drove straight to my ex-husband`s house for coffee and comfort and as usual, he was totally lovely and gave me the biggest bear-hug which I needed so much.

Later, when I had calmed down enough to open my e mails there was one from Jonathon.  It simply read;

‘You forgot your eggs.`

The End.

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Letter to Cherry at Jenny Craig.

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Dear Cherry Clarke,

You have such a food-y name it keeps tempting me to call you Cherry Cake.

When I first contacted Jenny Craig I spoke to a colleague of yours called David.  He has a lovely voice, a very engaging voice and sounded ever so like Dermot O`leary.   On the other hand Cherry, you sound exactly like Lenora Crichlow who plays Annie in Being Human.  This has led me to ponder whether I have in fact been having a conversation with 2 actors who are gaining experience for a forthcoming TV reality show but in any event a week ago persuaded by your lovely voice, I decided to join the Jenny Craig diet plan.

I wouldn`t normally fork out for a ready prepared diet as they are very expensive.  This one is usually on offer at £11 a day or £301 a month which is way too much money for me to afford.  At the moment though it is being offered at half price for the first month, so for just over a fiver a day they deliver to your door a months` supply of breakfast, lunch, dinner and loads of snacks.   I think that`s pretty competitive.  If I stroll over to ASDA near where I work to buy just my lunch, you can guarantee I`ll spend more than a fiver.

Anyway, I was full of enthusiasm and very excited when two large boxes arrived at my house packed with all sorts of goodies.   I began the diet last Wednesday and for the first two or three days I was doing really well.  Of course you already know that Cherry as you are my consultant and telephoned me on day 2 to see if everything was OK and it was…..  at that point I felt really committed to sticking to the plan.

And then we hit the weekend.    On Friday night `committment` got tucked away somewhere inside my head where I had also neatly stored `enthusiasm,` alongside `application`.   I briefly reflected that if I took some exercise it would distract me from thinking about food, so I did, me and the dog walked to the offie and bought a bottle of California Soft and Fruity which was very nice.

By Saturday morning I was positively slathering at the mouth for something with fat in it so I ate several pieces of toasted rye bread laden thick with butter and marmite, a soft boiled drippy egg (delicious) and three chunks of extremely sharp Cheddar cheese.

Later, when my  ex-old man woke up and sat down in the kitchen for his morning cuppa, I pointed out in an accusatory sort of a way that he had previously said he would cook me a balti.  Tony is a particularly gifted cook, people travel from afar to taste his curries.  He looked puzzled,  “I thought you were on your diet,”  he said.   “Bugger the diet,”  I replied.  That evening he presented me with the most mouth wateringly delicious minced lamb and prawn balti cooked lovingly with butter, spices, chilli and creamed coconut, every spoonful was a spoonful of balti heaven.  The home made naan breads were pretty spectacular too.

Yesterday evening my lovely daughter Becky called round with all the grandchildren.  Beck and I sat in the kitchen chatting and laughing recounting our day and telling stories and jokes to one another over several generous glasses of Chablis.  As we talked, so the grandchildren gradually rifled through my Jenny Craig boxes and noshed away most of the crisp and biscuit snacks, several tubs of Jenny Craig pot noodle, two portions of  Jenny Craig lasagne, some Jenny Craig chicken and potatoes and a Jenny Craig Moroccan style chick pea tagine.   There are five grandchildren so the boxes have been heavily plundered and are hugely diminished, it`s a tragedy!  I should mention it was shortly after their feast that one or other of the two youngest managed to pull down the curtains in the living room and when I enquired which one of them had done it, they turned their sweet little faces to me and said, “we don`t know which one of us did it nanny.”   Must have been the sugar rush from the extremely moreish Jenny Craig chocolate chip cereal bars.

Anyway Cherry, really, I`m serious!  My enthusiasm for the plan waned very rapidly although the food is undeniably delicious.  My theory is that it is such a low fat diet, the effect it has on me is to make me crave chunks of meat and cheese and slices of chicken pie swimming in thick gravy but Cherry, I want you to know as my temporary life coach and mentor, this is nothing to do with you and it`s not your fault.   I do not doubt the plan, it`s a great plan for those who can stick to it, it`s just that I can`t.   No matter how much you energetically and convincingly try to persuade me to stay on the straight and narrow, I`m afraid it isn`t going to work.  I`ve fallen off the wagon, I`ve strayed along the path to ruin, I`m on the road to no-where baby!  But by gum I`m having such a good time getting there……

I`m just off to bed now with a few midnight snacks.

Best wishes,

Nelly.

Rita`s jacket.

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I went out with my friend Rita last week, we had a meal together I hadn`t seen her for ages and we had such a nice time.  Rita is seventy nine, she has survived cancer as well as some pretty serious surgery on her spine, she rarely complains about it and she doesn`t let it get her down.  She is a rather conservative lady and has a manner of speaking which reminds me a bit of Hyacinth Bucket, she`s very funny but she doesn`t always realise it and I like her very much. She told me the following story and I thought it was so good, I decided to blog it.  To set the scene, imagine you are seated at a table enjoying a nice carvery…… Appropos of nothing at all Rita began to speak,   “Do you know,” she said, “two Christmas`s ago those boys ,”   (that`s Mike and Mark, Mark is Rita`s son, Mike is his partner,)  “those boys gave me the most lovely jacket.  Very smart, black, tailored, Marks and Sparks.  Quite expensive”  “Oh yes,” I murmured, chomping on my roasters.  “Yes, anyway I tried it on and it was a little too small, so Mike said to me that it didn`t matter, he would take the jacket back to his sister who he`d bought it from in Liverpool and have the money back and we`d get something else.”   “Oh right, “ I said, shovelling in some peas. “Anyway, he took it up to Liverpool on his next visit and his sister Jackie apparently hung the jacket on a chair in the kitchen and gave Mike his money back.  The next thing you know, their elderly neighbour came round for a chat and a cuppa I suppose and saw the jacket and asked if she could try it on.”     “I see,”   I nodded, a bit puzzled as to where the story was going. “So she took it home with her to try it on and she really liked it, apparently it really suited her but being a pensioner she asked Jackie if she could pay her a bit each week from her pension and of course Jackie said that she could.” I nodded again and took a sip of water. “Anyway, two days later she died.” “Oh dear,”  I commiserated, slicing up my carrots,   “how unfortunate!” “It certainly was,”  Rita continued, I could hear the affront in her voice….  “the family came round to Jackie`s after the funeral and said that their mother had liked the jacket so much, they`d buried her in it.  So Jackie never got her money, and I never got my Christmas present!” Classic.

Nurse training.

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In 2001 I had decided that my true calling in life was to be a nurse, so I began a seconded degree in Mental Health nursing at Birmingham University.  I have to say it was one of the most challenging decisions I have ever undertaken and no matter how many  times I employed tricks to remember the order of things, you know  `the hip bone`s connected to the thigh bone` etc. it remained very difficult for me to achieve the standards I knew must be met.  So I didn`t enjoy it all that much, however I met some very nice students there and some pretty far out tutors as well.  Some of the physiology lectures were so enthralling there would be standing room only, yet occasionally I would meet a student so lacking in social awareness or empathy of any kind, I used to think they would be hopeless next to an inanimate object never mind a human being.  I used to wonder what brought them to nursing when it was so clear, they didn`t like people at all.

Every year all students have to work at a placement and there are a number of tests you must pass during a placement in order to continue the course.  For me, one of these was learning CPR and the other was giving my first injection.  The placement was at a large residential nursing home for older people and as I`ve always enjoyed the company of older people; I was looking forward to it.  The manager was an affable Irish man with ruddy cheeks.   I got on with him from the start and it was only when I was a few days into my stay there that I realised he had a problem with drink.  He would slip up the road to the pub at every possible occasion to top up and was the subject of much, highly unprofessional gossip amongst the staff.   In spite of being mildly pissed most of the time, he was an efficient man who ran a tight ship and the standards of care in the home were maintained at an extremely high level. 

 The residents liked him and so did I.

When it came for me to demonstrate CPR to him, he brought out the plastic torso of half a person affectionately known as Jane and laid her on the floor.  Never mind Vinnie Jones telling us `you only kiss your wife` in those days it was de rigeur to place your mouth over the mouth of the person in trouble.   A plastic shield was strategically put in place as protection in case anyone threw up.  I was ready, my patient was ready, my merry manager observing me as I began the CPR.   Unfortunately I must have blown a bit too enthusiastically into Jane as there was a sudden loud bang and both her lungs quickly deflated.  `My God, you`ve blown her up,` my manager stated the obvious, looking at me incredulously through pink rimmed eyes.  He was right and poor old Jane was a gonner!  I think that must have been the prelude to the new ad`s telling us to press hard and fast to Staying Alive……

On another occasion I had to give my first injection.   It being Mental Health nursing, many of the residents had long term mental health issues and were on all kinds of med`s  some of which can only be administered  into the buttock.  It`s quite tricky injecting into the buttock.  You have to divide it mentally into quarters and then make sure you miss a particular area where there are many nerves which can be damaged, irrevocably so.  You also have to ensure you have the correct dosage of medication in the needle.  Nurses have to learn drug conversions which I always found extremely difficult.   I remember my then husband testing me and saying with a playful smile upon his face as I got it wrong for the umpteenth time,  `Helen you`ve just converted enough lithium into our hypothetical needle to knock out most of Acocks Green…..`    Oh how I laughed.

Anyway the old lady who was kind enough to be my guinea pig flinched,  just a tiny bit as the needle went in and she of a thousand injections commented, very generously I thought, `not bad for a first attempt.

Sadly, the manager was sacked but not before he passed me with flying colours.  I was sorry to see him go.  Drink`s a bugger isn`t it.   I only completed year one of my nursing degree as the  following year I went to live in Darwin.   Ever since that time I have been known as Helen, one third of a nurse.