Splinters and dead ringers

Having just written about beer we tootled off to the pub… sadly I am not drinking beer or any alcohol at the moment, but the great thing about great pubs is that that doesn’t matter! You can still have a very pleasant and enjoyable time!

We met up with two of the three girls first of all – girl three is in Canada at the moment (the ‘girls’ are all seniors, by the way!).  Harley the English bulldog came over for a visit, he is gorgeous, and just wanted a bit of a scratch under his receding chin and a rub of the ears and then he wandered off again. Then the two T’s came in, Tim and Trev and we caught up with each other’s news.

Tim told us the story of his injured finger (finger and hammer… the end) and how his wife who was a nurse nearly fainted at the sight of it.  Daughter showed her war wound – a bizarre injury which came from a bit of the protective screen of her mobile phone splintering off and going under her finger nail… yes, nasty, makes me shiver to remember it! Tim then told us of a similar injury he received except this was with a piece of wood. He’d been at work and had a young work-experience student with him (school children have to go into places of work for two weeks to learn what the real world is like) This young person wasn’t that interested in the area in which Tiim worked because he wanted to train to be a nurse when he left school. Tim was using a plane on a plank when something came adrift and a long splinter of wood went up under his fingernail. A few naughty words and Tim grabbed some pliers and pulled the offending piece of wood out… at which point the boy fainted!

We talked about many things, the last bowls match of the season for Trev, plaid after it was dark with candles in jam jars to light the direction in which to bowl – like a flight path which was apt as Trev had been in the RAF. Somehow we got onto the subject of wakes, and suddenly Tim said ‘Dead ringers!’  and everyone nodded and laughed… Well, I was a bit confused… ‘Dead Ringers’ is a popular radio programme… but no, Tim however, was talking about the practice of having a bell rope dangling into a coffin so that if someone was not really dead, they could tug on it and alert someone once they had been buried… I had heard of that – but never associated with the term dead ringers! Surprising what you learn in the pub!

The cars in the city go rushing by

Pub quiz tonight… and a music question we got the answer to! I forget the question but the answer was Kim Wilde! One of the most successful British recording artists, she was born in 1960 and went on to have countless hits, thirteen studio and many other albums, multiple awards and as well as her music career is a landscape gardener!!

An imagined location… or a real setting?

I’ve been sharing some writing about a character I have called Gus. I first wrote about him four or five years ago… I’m not sure because I don’t remember actually doing it – I came across  part of a story about a man wandering over the salt marshes, lonely and alone and I couldn’t remember witting it at all, nor what I intended to happen to him or what his story was or might be.  He obviously was quite vivid in my mind because I found another piece I’d written, he was still wandering by the sea, but this time across some water meadows leading down to an estuary. Intrigued by him now, I wrote some more pieces, not filling in his back story, although mentioning an ex-wife, and although he began to get to know a few people in the pub in the village where he lived, the ‘chapters’ – or episodes maybe, were all along the same lines… wandering, watching other people walking their dogs, noticing the wild life, identifying plants and shrubs and trees he walked past…

I have been sharing these pieces, and they are beginning to come together in my mind now, and last week I wrote another episode – the first new piece of writing about Gus for about a year. In this piece, he was out walking, slipped, and slithered down the river bank to become stuck in the mud with an incoming tide. We live in a similar area to Gus, and the estuary mud, and the muddy beach is a real and constant danger – especially to silly holiday makers who don’t read all the huge warning signs. Last weekend we passed a situation – there was an ambulance, a fire engine, the coast guards’ hovercraft, a triage van and the coastguards Land Rover altogether, attending an incident; the firemen were hosing down a small child who was covered in mud from head to toe, and his father was in the ambulance having been in the mud up to his shoulders… they could so easily have lost their lives.

So I have my character (and some collateral characters in the pub) and I am beginning to have a few ideas for a narrative, and I also have my setting – or do I? Most of my books have been set in my imaginary small old-fashioned, seaside town of Easthope. It has a little bay with rocks on either side of a beach, a small river runs into the sea nearby; further along the coast in one direction are pretty little harbours and villages, and in the other direction a large town. The great thing about having an imaginary location is that if you need an extra church, or school, or village you can just invent one! I do take careful notes so my imaginary geography is always consistent. As well as writing about location like this being so flexible, it also means no-one can read it and think I am writing about real people with real lives and real events…

So Gus and location… his location is based on the village where I live. We have the beach, the water meadows, the marshes, the river running into the sea with a very muddy, dangerously muddy estuary, the little boatyard, the rhyne (drainage channel) the pub – above all the pub! But if I set Gus’s story here, will the people in the real pub, our pub start thinking they are the basis for my characters? Might there be some coincidental real life story which is the same as a plot line? Hmm… this is a conundrum I shall have to think about…


Here is a link to my e-novels and my recently published paperbacks:




Gus goes to the pub… again…

My hero without a novel, continues his wanderings by the sea, and begins to make very tentative plans…

The sea was out, far, far out, a mere silver sliver on the horizon beneath the clouds gathering round the setting sun. Gus surveyed it with a gloomy fatalism. He loved the sea, loved being beside the sea, but not this sea, this estuary flow of muddy salty water. He liked no he loved a clear sea, a bright sea, a moving sea, a sea which sang. He thought of the Antrim coast. The infinite variety of sea… blue, grey, black, soft, gentle, fierce angry, irate… he smiled. An irate sea, an amusing thought… but the humour died and he turned to plod across the damp sand.

The sea birds tonight had not settled, they were flying about, hither and thither, but silent apart from the odd squawk. Why did they not settle on the beach as they had the other night? A bee flew past, towards the sea and he called at it to come back, that it was going the wrong way.

He glanced around to see if anyone was near enough to hear his foolishness. The beach was deserted. he turned a full 360 degrees but there was no-one in sight and just as he was thinking how odd this was a couple with three dogs rounded the sea wall and a car moved into his line of vision.

Turning to trudge towards the yacht club he noticed another two couples walking across the sand. He sighed deeply and plodded on. Nothing was very interesting, the sky was a uniform grey, the clouds were just piles of fluff, the light was poor and the distant meadows fuzzy. It was not cold but there was mistiness in the air which was cold.

There were lights on in the yacht club tonight, and it had only been the other day that he had wondered whether anyone ever went there any more. He heard voices as he passed by, people chatting and laughing together.

He moved on and suddenly he was by the kissing gate. Somehow he had walked past the upturned dinghies, across the meadow, up the little bank, along the path by the river and here he was at the kissing gate. With no-one to kiss.

He stopped and looked across at the yachts in the boatyard. Some were on the bank of the river, ready to be launched, some were even moored in the river, and others were propped up in the yard. Would he like a boat? He didn’t think he could cope with all the ropes – sheets as they were properly called, and sails, and knots, and all the rest of the maritime gubbins.

To sit in a rowing boat and skull slowly somewhere, to paddle about in a canoe, to drift along in a put, yes how pleasant that would be… but a yacht… no, not for him.

A canal boat. Maybe he should sell up and buy a canal boat and live on that. It would be small, forcing him to sell or give away a lot of his junk. He would have to be neat, he would have to be tidy. He would live economically on baked beans and Worcestershire sauce. But he had met someone once who had lived on a canal boat. He had said it was cold and noisy…

Well, sometimes he was cold in his house by the rhyne, and quite often it was noisy. Maybe he would look up canal boats on the Internet and see how much they were… sell his house and become a water gypsy as his uncle called boat dwellers. He would have to pay mooring fees… and have to empty the toilet and buy water… but he did that already with rates, and refuse collection, and sewage and water rates… Yes, he would explore the possibilities.

He walked on with a more jaunty stride, knowing that really whatever investigation and research he did he would not do it… to sell his house would be making a decision, and the thought of trying to choose where, and how, and what… impossible.

In the pub, by chance one of the yachties, Jerry stood beside him at the bar and Gus asked him about the costs of a boat in the boatyard. Another Gerry joined in the conversation and the two men began to tell him about people who had lived on boats, it was not allowed apparently but they had some tales to tell, deviating off into other stories as they bought several rounds. Their girlfriends, partners as they were now called, Flip and Brenda joined them and they adjourned to a table and the talk turned to more general things and suddenly it was last orders.


Two shorts in the Dolphin

For various reasons we went to the Dolphin tonight; we don’t usually go on a Thursday – Tuesday for quiz, the occasional Friday or Saturday, then Sunday to meet up with ‘the girls’ and the 2 T’s, Tim and Trev.

So we drifted down this evening at about quarter past ten, just for the last three-quarters of an hour, and we sat in what we call the cross-benches, the bar between what I guess used to be ‘the lounge’ and the other bar which would have been ‘the public’. Such distinctions are long gone, the pub is the pub, but there is definitely the quiet end, and the TV/darts board end. (The cross-benches, by the way is actually a parliamentary term for where those minority parties sit, between the government and the opposition)

We sat next to a table of four jolly, youngish people who we didn’t know, two couples who were having a social time with each other. We were just sitting, drinking our drinks, when the two ladies of the couple stood up and back to back compared heights. It was plain that the blond lady was a few inches shorter than the dark lady…

A friendly row broke out between them because the blond lady thought she was the same height as the dark lady… I chimed in because I am 5′ 4″, the same as the blonde lady. Soon I  had my shoes off and we were back to back comparing heights. Then the husbands joined in, and I have to say my husband, 6′ 6½” was way taller than anyone else… there was much laughter and banter, and then a lady from the other end came over, she wasn’t even 5 foot!

Anyone coming into the pub and seeing all these laughing, arguing people with no shoes on, standing back to each other would have thought us most strange! However, that is just a typical night in the Dolphin! The two couples departed with shaking of our hands and farewells to us, and us promising to bring a tape-measure next time, and then we sat back to finish our drinks…

Yes, a typical Dolphin night!

Ir’s Sunday night…

It’s Sunday night, and unlike the previous three nights when we have thought about drifting down to the Dolphin for a jar or two and been trapped by rain, rain, rain, tonight it was not raining – in fact there was even a sliver of moon in the sky. So hopeful of meeting the two T’s, or ‘the girls’ we set off down to our local.

The pub was fairly empty tonight, but the two T’s, Trev and Tim, were ensconced in their usual corner, so with a couple of pints of fine Otter beer, we joined them. When we arrived they were talking about painting and decorating; we exchanged news – we had been to a family wedding last week and the beer festival today, we had bowls club news from Trev, and painting and decorating news from Tim.

We were drinking mighty fine pints of Otter, as was Trev, Tim was on our local cider, Thatcher’s Gold. I really wish I liked cider; local product, organically grown, giving employment to local people, a traditional product… what’s not to like… well… it’s just not to my taste. I don’t like any cider… there is something about the smell, as well as the taste, as well as the after effects… We had a bit of a discussion about it, and we reported back to the 2 T’s about the cider on offer at the beer festival (this is Somerset, traditional home of cider, as well as the home of some brilliant beers!)

As usual we had a really interesting evening… we talked about Legionnaire’s Disease (a friend is in intensive care with it) – Tim in his professional life had to deal with its prevention so is very knowledgeable; we talked about coach holidays and going to see the WW1 battlefields; we talked about civic works in our town, the power of the local college, the town, our village… and our last discussion was on the corrupt practices in British industry in the 1970’s…

Time was called, we hugged, said goodnight, and tottered off to our homes… what a pleasure it is to be able to walk home down the middle of the road!

This is our way home… no cars, no traffic!


Goodbye Tom! Good luck!!

Drifted down to the Dolphin this evening, hoping to meet up with our pals, the 2 T’s, Trev and Tim, which we did… only to discover that the lovely bar person Tom who has been dispensing beer, drinks, and a benign  almost Buddha like calm from behind the bar for the last eighteen months, is leaving!

Tom is like all good bar people, he has this radar which clocks customers waiting at the bar, and clocks them in the order they arrived! However, he also has judgement… so if someone is standing there and actually nattering to someone, or even mouthing off, has had too much to drink anyway, is not really that bothered about being served, has already been a bit rude, – and he sees you, pleasant, polite, loyal, friendly local person – then he might move you up the queue and serve you sooner.

He is pleasant and friendly and funny and nice and interesting…

We are so sorry to see Tom go, but we wish him well on his travels, and the best of luck in the future, whatever he gets up to! Maybe we can organise a pub trip to visit him, even though it is 3,452 miles away… However, it’s more likely we will stay in contact through social networking… Even so…