Like most artist type folk I know, I am totally pathetic about 'getting it out there' or advertising as people in the trade call it. Now re-editing book three in my trilogy of novels, I was looking back at No 1 earlier and I thought — 'well, it's possible that this blog could be read by a vast number of people, and some of them might be interested in what I do when not writing blogs. So, here is a chapter at the end of Book 1.
Two of the main characters are preparing to head off for a new life in France, when someone unexpected arrives . . .
Archway January 2003
"Yes, it might be useful."
"Er, I don't know at this moment, but I sense that I shouldn't get rid of it."
"Records of Russian Orthodox choir music, box of ancient music scores, 'Skipping in a Glen'?"
"What about your rubbish then?" said Peter, grinning and holding up a bird skeleton and a rusting metal sign marked 'The End Of The World IS Nigh.'
"OK, point taken, but we have to get rid of something. This is never all going to fit in the removal van."
"Do we really have to get all this done by tomorrow afternoon?"
"Yes, by 4pm; that's when the Collins are bringing their stuff."
"Do we like these people?"
"So why do we have to do what they want? Remind me."
"So you don't remember all that horrible negotiation at the end?" Peter enfolded Holly in his arms.
"No, not really — I was working. Mrs Mussolini here sorted everything out." Holly tickled him: "aaarrgg, stop . . . mercy! I'll pay attention in future."
"It was part of the agreement, to get the price we wanted. We said we would be out by the tenth of January — they're in a chain."
"OK . . . right, let's get on with it," said Peter reluctantly. "Sarah will be bringing Gabriel back in the afternoon."
"Urrrgg . . . I'm so tired, couldn't we just stay in bed for another half an hour?" groaned Holly, the following morning.
"We can't, Martin and a friend are coming in half an hour to help us take it apart and get it downstairs."
"What time is the removal van coming?" asked Holly. "Look at my list, I can't remember what they said now."
"Er . . . 10am," yawned Peter. The intercom buzzed. "I'll get it, must Martin, they're early." He picked up the handset. "Hello, Martin? Hello?"
"No reply, I'd better go down. Perhaps it's not working."
Holly went to wake Gabriel, and then started breakfast. Peter came back upstairs looking ashen, someone following him: "Holly, my mother's here . . . umm, not quite sure what to do."
Peter's mother came into the kitchen and sat down heavily. She looked dishevelled, her expensive suit creased, makeup smudged: "I got a taxi, he . . . wanted me to stay, I had to come, needed to get . . . away." She was talking in short breathless phrases: "Your brother . . . away, till Tuesday, didn't know where to go."
Peter backed against a wall, looking scared.
"What happened?" Holly asked.
"He, had . . . an affair, another one, not the first you know . . . but . . . I came back, found them in bed, our bed." She started to cry, sobbing loudly.
"We're leaving, to go to France — today," said Holly, feeling hysterical. "The ferry is booked."
"What am I to do?" wailed Peter's mother.
The intercom sounded again, Peter answered. It was Martin and his friend. He let them in and directed them to dismantle the bed. There was giggling coming from the bathroom; Holly went to check. Gabriel had emptied all the toiletries from a box onto the floor and had made a huge shaving cream, shampoo puddle. He was lying in it, fully clothed, his dark hair a mass of foam. She looked at him and thought about all the stuff still left to do.
A pressing feeling started in her temples.
The buzzer went again; it was the removal men ahead of time. Martin went to direct as best as he could.
Peter phoned his father. "She's here, yes in a terrible state . . . yes she got a cab, no I don't know how much. Last time we saw you both, you accused me of being a loser — you might want to look at yourself." There was a silence, broken by the sobs from his mother. Peter listened to the ranting on the other end of the phone and interrupted: "I don't care, I'm really not interested in your sordid affairs. You'll have to come and get her; we're leaving today. You can't buy your way out of this mess. I don't want your money . . . what, what?" The phone went dead. "It cut off," said Peter, staring at the handset.
"I told the phone company that we were leaving today," said Holly. "The Collins are using a different one."
As Holly left the kitchen to deal with Gabriel and the mess, Peter's mother stopped her, grabbing her arm. She looked wild. "You don't know what I've been through," she spat, "and now you're taking my son away from me."
The threatening migraine sprang. Holly squinted at her through the stabbing pain. The memory of the disturbing visit to Cornwall re-emerged: Peter being compared with his brothers, Peter practically told he was worthless.
"You brought this on yourself," she said. "You have no love for him, we are his family, and we are going today." She wrenched her arm away from the spidery grip and went into the bathroom, tears flowing: her head a war zone.
Peter followed her in and wrapped her in his embrace: "It's alright, she's going. We'll be away from her soon, Holly? I love you . . ."
The intercom sounded again — it was the pedantic neighbour next door complaining about the removal van. Peter told him to piss off and put back the handset. Two minutes later it buzzed again. "Look, just fuck off will you!" yelled Peter. "Oh my God, so sorry! Holly, it's your mum and dad." They came up the stairs.
"Mum, Dad," said Holly, holding a cold flannel to her head. "This is incredible, you drove down?"
"Well, we couldn't just let you go off without a housewarming present . . . " said June, her words tailing off as she observed the chaos.
"Er . . . this is my mother," said Peter. "She . . . just arrived — sorry, not quite sure what's going on."
"All my life," moaned his mother, "did what he wanted, his choices . . . he's not getting away with it . . ." She looked mad. Peter wondered if she had been drinking, he had only ever seen her with an occasional gin and tonic.
The intercom sounded again. Holly answered; it was another neighbour warning that the whole of Archway Road was blocked off due to someone threatening to jump off the bridge. "Think I might join them," Peter said desperately.
June took matters in hand: "Jack, make tea for everyone. Peter, go and check on the removal people. Holly, Gabriel is drawing on the living room walls, give him these." She handed over the big drawing pad and pens that she had brought for him. She turned her attention to Peter's mother, instinctively feeling the immense gap between the woman and her son.
As Holly went to find Gabriel, she could hear her mother speaking calmly. "Here, some tea, come and sit here and tell me what's happened." June, ex-nurse, general pourer of oil on troubled water.
Buzzzz — the intercom: it was the Collins. Holly went downstairs to see them.
"Really sorry, but the guy buying our flat is being a right pain," said Mrs Collins. "He's moved all his stuff in already and is saying that we must be out by eleven. We're ready now." She pointed at a battered van and looked imploringly at Holly.
"How did you get through?" asked Holly. "Someone said the road was blocked."
"Oh, it's OK . . . he jumped," she said absentmindedly.
"He jumped, and it's OK?" said Holly incredulously.
"Yeah, he broke a leg apparently. Can we start?" she persisted.
"Yes, why not? I'm thinking of asking Brian Rix to come and help. We could do with a few extra people screaming and running about with their trousers round their ankles."
Peter ran up: "I got through to my father, he's coming to get her. Your mum is fantastic, calmed mine right down — she sounds quite human for a change."
"Has this happened before?"
"I think so, but my brother was around last time."
"Is what she said true?"
"I don't know, probably. As I said, I really don't care. I'm going to go and get fish and chips for three hundred now."
It was 3pm. The bed had finally been made to collapse and the furniture was in the van; the Saab was stuffed, the Collins were half way through moving their belongings and Peter's mother was still in deep conversation with June.
Holly unwrapped the present from her parents. Inside a box was one of their Liberty platters. Holly admired the colours and swirling design: "It's lovely. I'll thank mum later."
"We're making a delivery to Liberty's tomorrow," said Jack. "Thought we would stay overnight in London and catch up on a few things."
"It was brilliant timing," said Holly gesturing to the kitchen and Peter's mother. "I don't know how we would have coped with her otherwise." She sat quietly talking to her father and gradually the migraine eased into a normal headache.
Peter came over: "We really need to get going or we'll miss the crossing. I'm wondering if I should stay here Holly and catch you up. I don't know how long it will be before my father gets here."
June overheard. "Certainly not, she said. "Everything's ready. We'll stay here and hand the keys over — and we're happy to wait with your mother until your father arrives."
"It's a bit strange though," said Peter doubtfully, "I mean you having to deal with all this."
"This journey is important for you both. We don't want Holly to have to do it by herself with Gabriel; you should all be together. I imagine your relationship with your parents is obviously a little, er . . ."
"Complicated?" assisted Peter. "You may have gathered we're not really on speaking terms. I'll write to them when we've settled a bit. I think we need to start again."
They said their goodbyes, Peter, tentatively to his mother, now subdued and wanting to go home. They walked down the stairs for the last time.
A parking ticket flapped on the car's windscreen; Holly stripped it off the window and ripped it into tiny pieces. "No more tickets, clamps or car pounds," she said happily.
"No more tube journeys, squashed bikes, or bus queues," said Peter. "I wonder what the grumbles will be instead."
He looked at Holly as they set off. "Why aren't you going towards Southwark Bridge?"
"It'll only take five minutes longer. I just want to drive down that road in Covent Garden."
"The one where you tried to assassinate me, and then kissed me in front of all those people?"
"That one, yes," said Holly.
Peter leant over and kissed her gently on the cheek: "I enjoyed it — the second part."
The old Saab edged its way up Holborn High Street and turned into Covent Garden, silver between bus red and taxi black.
Click top right hand side for Amazon link to the first two books and reviews.
Click top right hand side for Amazon link to the first two books and reviews.